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17 Okt 2023

Alex Cosh, The Maple

Canada: Criticism of government's lack of transparency and continuation of arms exports to Israel amid claims of "genocide" against the Palestinian population

"Which Canadian Weapons Fuel Israel’s ‘Textbook Genocide’ Of Palestinians? The Feds Don’t Disclose"

...Israel’s brutal assault has renewed questions about Canadian arms sales to Israel. In 2022, Canadian manufacturers exported more than $21 million in military goods to Israel, meaning last year saw the third-largest tally of annual military exports to Israel on record (behind 2021 and 1987).

Canadian military exports to Israel have increased dramatically over the past 10 years, from $2,379,586 in goods in 2012 to a high of $26,092,289 in 2021, according to data published annually by Global Affairs Canada (GAC).

But arms monitoring groups warn that little information is available about the exact kinds of goods that Canadian manufacturers may be shipping to fuel Israel’s war machine, and who is making them.

“The exact types of Canadian military goods exported to Israel are poorly understood,” said Kelsey Gallagher, a researcher with Project Ploughshares in an interview with The Maple. “There’s really not much information on exactly what types of technology are being transferred or have been transferred, aside from the broad ways in which the government of Canada reports these exports.”

To export military goods, Canadian manufacturers must obtain permits under the Export and Import Permits Act (EIPA). As part of this process, goods are categorized under Global Affairs Canada’s (GAC) “Export Control List” (ECL)...

These categories provide only very broad strokes, said Gallagher. With countries other than Israel, arms monitoring groups are able to identify the specific kinds of goods being sold through secondary sources, such as press releases published by the manufacturers themselves.

This is not the case with Israel. “There’s much less information on the exact type of goods that have been exported from Canada to Israel,” said Gallagher. In terms of why that is the case, Gallagher said that he could only speculate.

“I suspect that some manufacturers are less keen on reporting arms contracts to Israel out of fear of condemnation,” he explained. “We really just don’t see the same fanfare when the end user is Israel.”

Even in the case of goods exported under the categories of explosives or firearms, Gallagher said, it is impossible to say for certain whether these are being used in military assaults, since these categories include products like hunting rifles and demolition kits.

“We do consistently see exports of explosives to Israel. There is still some concern, because we don’t know what they are,” said Gallagher. “Obviously, Israel has shown little regard for international humanitarian law, particularly when it’s conducting airstrikes.”

“This does speak to a greater need for transparency on the part of the government of Canada to tell us exactly what types of military goods are being supplied abroad.”

Under the EIPA, “the Minister of Foreign Affairs must deny exports and brokering permit applications for military goods and technology if there is a substantial risk that the items would undermine peace and security, or could be used to commit or facilitate serious violations of international humanitarian and human rights laws.”

Canada has also been a signatory to the international Arms Trade Treaty since 2019, which supposedly “promotes responsibility, transparency and accountability in transfers of conventional arms.” Canada regularly claims to have “among the most rigorous” arms export controls in the world...

In a report published by CJPME in 2022, the advocacy group noted that Canadian military exports to Israel have also come at a time of increasing recognition that Israel maintains a system of apartheid over Palestinians.

“The continued transfer of military goods into this context is inconsistent with Canada’s obligations under international treaties, and violates the spirit and intent of the Arms Trade Treaty,” the report found.

Bueckert noted that Canada imposed an arms embargo on Israel following the outbreak of the First Intifada in December 1987, over concerns that these exports might fuel hostilities further and contribute to violations of human rights.

“The only reason that [the embargo] was ever reversed was as one of the conditions for signing the Canada-Israel Free Trade Agreement, not a recognition that the human rights risk had gone away,” Bueckert explained.  

On Monday, the advocacy group Labour Against the Arms Trade urged Canadian unions representing arms and security industry workers to heed a call from Palestinian labour unions to stop producing and shipping arms to Israel.