Canada reverses position on Arms Trade Treaty

The Conservative government has repositioned itself as a less-than-useful partner in the lead-up to negotiations on the United Nations’ Arms Trade Treaty, reports Kenneth Epps, senior program officer at Project Ploughshares (Kenneth Epps, “Hunting down an Arms Trade Treaty,” Embassy Magazine, 3 August 2011).

Epps points to the influence of the domestic gun lobby as the source of the change in policy.

Canada’s┬ástatements during the July preparatory meeting indicated a change from its prior supportive stance on the Treaty. Instead of supporting the chair’s suggested measures on treaty implementation, Canada took issue with the text, calling it “too ambitious”, with sections that were “too detailed” or “seeking too much.” Canada also called into question treaty criteria on socio-economic development and corruption. Finally, the Canadian delegation suggested particular wording calling for recognition that “small arms have certain legitimate civilian uses” and for the exclusion of “sporting and hunting firearms for recreational use” from the treaty.

As Epps notes, the Canadian suggestions were not only unhelpful, but give “the impression that Canada misunderstands the purpose of the treaty.” The position, which echoes that of the National Rifle Association in the United States, puts Canada at risk of becoming a treaty spoiler.

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