On 17 September 2019, Canada joined the UN Arms Trade Treaty, an important international agreement which aims to promote greater responsibility among countries that trade in weapons. The ATT is now legally binding on 105 countries, a represents a great advancement in international law.
On the very same day that Canada became officially bound by the ATT, Global Affairs Canada officials signed off on a memorandum to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, providing an “update” on the situation of Saudi export permit. The officials could not “identify any existing permits or pending applications that would be of concern.”
This assessment is very troubling. There are 48 Saudi weapons permits pending, and government officials have given them a green light without providing much of an explanation about why they are convinced that these weapons do not risk being used by Saudi Arabia to commit human rights violations, in spite of the ongoing conflict in Yemen. Before Foreign Affairs Minster Francois Philippe Champagne makes the final decision on these permits, it will be crucial for him to have a complete picture of the risks involved in exporting weapons to Saudi Arabia, in order to make sure that Canada is fully meeting its new legal obligations under the ATT.
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