Canadian MP Garnett Genuis raises concern regarding the arms sales to Azerbaijan
Ottawa – At the Foreign Affairs committee meeting last week, Conservative MP Garnett Genuis raised concern about the government`s decision to approve the sale of weapons to Azerbaijan. While claiming to be concerned about arms control, and pushing forward with the implementation of the UN Arms Trade Treaty in spite of significant concerns from law-abiding gun owners in Canada, the government has approved a sale of arms to Azerbaijan. The sale could represent a real risk to neighbouring Armenia, and to peace and security in the region.
Below is the text of the exchange:
Mr. Garnett Genuis: Thank you, Mr. Chair.
I’d like to clarify something. My understanding of the way the arms control system is structured—and would still be if C-47 were to pass—is that ultimately it’s up to ministerial and cabinet discretion in terms of whether or not a particular export is allowed to go to a particular country or whether or not particular countries are listed. Am I correct in that understanding?
Ms. Wendy Gilmour: The Export and Import Permits Act is under the authority of the Minister of Foreign Affairs.
Mr. Garnett Genuis: Perfect.
Ms. Wendy Gilmour: She has wide discretion to issue or not a permit. What the Arms Trade Treaty does, it reinforces specific prohibitions that exist under Canadian law right now, for example with respect to arms embargos that are in place further to UN Security Council action, that we implement under the United Nations Act and others.
Mr. Garnett Genuis: That’s great. Thank you.
Now I was just looking at some of the guidelines with respect to export control, and I was reading on the Foreign Affairs website, “The Government of Canada strives to ensure that among other policy goals Canadian exports are not prejudicial to peace, security or stability in any region of the world or with any country.”
Ms. Wendy Gilmour: Yes.
Mr. Garnett Genuis: The Minister’s making that determination, but ultimately the understanding is seeking to not undertake arm exports that are prejudicial to peace.
Now I wonder if you can comment on this, and maybe it’s a question more for the minister, but if you can comment on how the decision was arrived at, that in light of the Artsakh controversy the arms export to Azerbaijan was not prejudicial to peace in the region. Do you know how that determination was arrived at?
Ms. Wendy Gilmour: I cannot comment on any specific export permit. Those elements are further to commercial confidentiality because it’s commercial activity on the part of Canadian companies where absence of permit. What I can say very explicitly is how export permit decisions are arrived upon is that on receipt of an export permit application there is an assessment of the risks posed by the specific good or technology being exported, the country to which it’s being exported, and the end user and the end use that export will be put to against the range of considerations, which we have discussed already are very similar to that in policy that currently exists under article 7 of the treaty.
Mr. Garnett Genuis: Can I ask, then, with respect to the particulars of the export to Azerbaijan, would there have been some kind of an effort to guarantee that military equipment would not be used in subsequent fighting with Armenia?
Ms. Wendy Gilmour: I cannot comment on any specific export permit determination. When we look at an export permit application, as I said we’re assessing for risks. The likelihood that a particular Canadian good or technology is going to contribute to regional or international security would be one of the elements. If we believe that there is a significant risk that something would be prejudicial to Canadian security and stability or in any region of the world or within any country, which is what section 7 of the Export and Import Permits Act says at present, then we would probably recommend to the minister not to issue the permit. The ultimate decision would be that of the Minister of Foreign Affairs.
Mr. Garnett Genuis: Maybe I’d observe, then, and welcome your comment on this, but it seems a little bit strange that commercial considerations are invoked to not disclose information about what is in reality a question of peace and security and international politics in terms of whether or not military equipment is used by a particular nation in the context of a conflict with another nation. It seems like a little bit of a problem of public accountability when we have stated objectives of policy not having a negative impact on peace on security, and yet we have arms sales going to country which…. We’re not talking about ancient history here. Last year 350 people were killed in a four-day war/border clash, however you want to describe it, over Artsakh, Nagorno-Karabakh again, whatever you want to call it, but involving Armenia and Azerbaijan. Now Canada, having authorized this export, it raises questions, simple questions, that I would be curious to know the answers to in terms of what kinds of assessment went on, and I think there’s maybe a public interest in knowing that. But I guess what you’re telling me is that you’re unable to comment on the particulars of that.
Ms. Wendy Gilmour: I cannot comment on the particulars of any individual export permit. I would say, however, that Canada remains a world leader with respect to the transparency of our military exports. We have the Report to Parliament on Military Exports, which has been in place since 1991. That outlines Canada’s authorized exports by the specific type of good and the value to particular countries over the course of the year. That provides a greater level of transparency than exists in most other countries.
Mr. Garnett Genuis: Just very quickly, there’s nothing in Bill C-47 that would take away the ability of the minister to authorize the sale of further military equipment to a country like Azerbaijan?
Ms. Wendy Gilmour: It is the minister’s discretion to issue a permit. There are specific prohibitions already included in the Export and Import Permits Act. For example the Automatic Firearms Country Control List prohibits the Canadian government from authorizing an export permit of a prohibited weapon to a country that’s not on the AFCCL. We have prohibitions in place with respect to economic sanctions, both under the United Nations Security Council and under the Special Economic Measures Act that would prohibit the minister from issuing a permit in those instances.
The Chair: This is the last question, Garnett.
Mr. Garnett Genuis: Thank you, Mr. Chair.
The prohibitions you just described, of course, already exist—
Ms. Wendy Gilmour: Yes.
Mr. Garnett Genuis: Also, they’re unchanged.
Ms. Wendy Gilmour: Exactly.
Mr. Garnett Genuis: Thank you.