OTTAWA — The federal government has quietly amended the export law to permit Canadian shipments to Israel and Kuwait of prohibited weapons such as banned handguns or automatic weapons.
According to two new regulations published Wednesday in the Canada Gazette, the Conservative cabinet approved the changes two weeks ago. They take effect immediately.
The regulation pointed to examples of weapons controlled by the Export and Import Permits Act that would be legally exportable, though they remain prohibited under Canada’s criminal code, which include “fully automatic firearms, electric stun guns and large-capacity magazines.”
In order to export such items, an exporter must obtain a permit that would allow it to ship to approved countries. That list now allows weapons exports to 37 countries, consisting of all 27 NATO members, plus Australia, Botswana, Chile, Colombia, Finland, New Zealand, Peru, Saudi Arabia, the Republic of Korea and Sweden.
The Foreign Affairs department didn’t immediately provide a response to the Star about the changes.
The government outlined the objectives of the changes for each new destination for Canadian shippers in slightly different terms.
In the case of Israel, a country to which the Conservative government has long touted its strong ties as a democratic ally in the Middle East, the government’s decision referred specifically to new trade potential, saying its goal was to “open potential new market opportunities for Canadian exporters,” while maintaining Canada’s policy of “strict export controls of certain prohibited firearms, prohibited weapons and prohibited devices.”
In Kuwait’s case, it said the goal was to boost ties with a military ally in the region — Kuwait is now the staging ground for Canada’s air force fighters that are conducting airstrikes against ISIL in Iraq.
Specifically, it said, Ottawa’s objectives include a desire to “strengthen the Canada-Kuwait defence and security relationship.” It also listed the same two other goals as in Israel’s case.
The government says the regulatory changes do not automatically mean export permits will be granted, but will be assessed on a case-by-case basis.
In Israel’s case, consultations across government departments resulted in “only positive feedback” from within the federal bureaucracy; and only two responses from the public were received, “both supportive of the amendment.”
In Kuwait’s case, “no objections were received” from government departments. Three public responses were supportive, while “one submission was negative” due to “concerns regarding potential human rights issues.” The government said any such concerns could be addressed through the case-by-case review before permits were approved.
In both cases, the nearly identical regulation notice states that Canada has signed with Israel and Kuwait a “number of agreements in recent history that have deepened the defence and security relationship,” including an “intergovernmental defence, research, development, and production arrangement” that was signed with Israel in 2012 and with Kuwait in 2014.
The government states the addition of each will “strengthen the existing relationship” between Canada and the other.