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  • September 10th, 2018

Senate report chooses human rights over weapons exports


On 4 September the Rideauinstitute.ca blog discussed key pieces of legislation upcoming in the Senate, including in particular Bill C-47, on Canada’s arms export policy, and highlighted the key role that civil society can and must play in strengthening it.

For this vital effort, civil society has received an enormous boost in the form of the June 18 report of the Senate Standing Committee on Human Rights, chaired by Wanda Elaine Thomas Bernard, entitled Promoting Human Rights – Canada`s Approach to its Export Sector:

Where there is a substantial risk that exports could be misused to commit or facilitate serious violations or abuses of internationally recognized human rights, or serious violations of international humanitarian law, an export permit should be denied. Canada should not compromise human security for the benefit of commercial interests. (page 22)

And, in fact, the Liberal government has now amended Bill C-47 to introduce just such a rigorous test, albeit with some troubling limitations, as reported in earlier blog posts.

But the Senate Report goes much further than this one amendment.

In order to ensure that the Government has the information and tools to effectively apply the new human rights test, the Committee calls on Global Affairs Canada to:

  • consult stakeholders, including civil society and academics, in the development of assessment tools for use in the export permit application process;
  • regularly consult with stakeholders to provide information on the human rights situation in various countries and provide formal channels for the submission of information regarding the end-use and end-users of proposed exports; and
  • work with stakeholders including civil society to explore “contractual” mechanisms and other ways to better monitor end-use and end-users of military goods exported from Canada.

Problematic Public Sector Support for Arms Exporters

Equally welcome is a section of the report, forthrightly entitled “Problematic Public Sector Support for Exporters”. Here the Committee makes clear its profound concern over Canadian Crown Corporations — including the Export Development Corporation and the Canadian Commercial Corporation — failing to ensure that their practices comply with the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.

It goes on to make a series of innovative recommendations to remedy this disturbing misuse of taxpayer monies. [See pages 32–36.]

This report could not be more timely as Canada endures reprisals from Saudi Arabia for its diplomatic activity on behalf of Saudi women’s rights advocates, while continuing to export a new generation of armoured vehicles to Saudi Arabia, even as UN Experts release a new report condemning that country for war crimes in Yemen. — RI President Peggy Mason

For the full Senate Human Rights Committee report, click Promoting Human Rights – Canada`s Approach to its Export Sector (18 June 2018).

Photo credit: Wikimedia images (Haja, Yemen).

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