Arms export controls to be loosened

Canadian-made light armoured vehicle intervenes against democracy protesters in Bahrain

The Harper government plans to eliminate restrictions on the export of a large range of military-related goods (Lee Berthiaume, “Government to remove export controls on hundreds of military goods,Postmedia News, 23 October 2013):

The federal Conservative government has been quietly working to remove restrictions on the transfer of hundreds of Canadian-made, military-related goods as part of a plan to make Canada a global arms exporter.

Canadian defence companies say the initiative is long overdue and one of the single most important actions the government can take to help them succeed at home and abroad.

But arms-control groups worry about the secrecy that has surrounded the process, and warns the move could lead to Canadian military goods being used by authoritarian regimes to commit human rights abuses or worse, as has already happened at least once.

The federal government created a list of “controlled goods” in 2001 as part of a broader effort to prevent material that can be used for military purposes from falling into the wrong hands.

The list covers hundreds of items, including hazardous material outfits, drones, guns and ammunition, even software and high-tech sewing machines used to create protective gear.

But Canada’s defence industry has been complaining for the past few years that Canada’s list is far more restrictive than that of the United States, which puts Canadian companies at a competitive disadvantage with U.S. counterparts.

In response, the Conservative government quietly launched a review in spring 2012, and Public Works Minister Diane Finley confirmed last week that the government plans to remove more than half of the items currently on the controlled-goods list.

“The amendments will also ensure that the list is always aligned with the U.S., now and in the future,” Finley added. “That means predictability for Canadian business and continued access to the U.S. defence market.”

Public Works says it plans to hold two rounds of public consultations on the proposed changes, and the target for implementation is November 2014.

The Conservative government has been ramping up efforts to turn Canada into a major producer and exporter over the past few years. It said in its latest budget, tabled at the end of March, that it wants growth in the defence industry to “provide Canada with a stronger manufacturing base with a capacity for leading-edge technology and innovation.”

It has since ordered federal research agencies such as the National Research Council to focus on the sector, while simultaneously setting up multimillion-dollar funds to support business-driven research and development. It has also been advocating a “Buy in Canada” approach to purchasing new military equipment even as the Canadian Commercial Corporation, a Crown corporation, has turned itself into the federal government’s arms salesman.

The government has also been looking to ease restrictions on the sale of weapons and military equipment to Brazil, Chile, Peru and South Korea.

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