Demands for Canada to stop supplying arms to Israel grow louder | Israel’s War on Gaza News

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Montreal, Canada – Human rights advocates are accusing Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government of misleading the public about arms sales to Israel, which have come under increased scrutiny amid Israel’s deadly bombing of Gaza.

An issue is legislation that prohibits the government from exporting military equipment to foreign actors if there is a risk that it will be used in human rights abuses.

But regulatory gaps, along with a lack of clarity about what Canada sends to Israel, have complicated efforts to end transfers.

Dozens of Canadian civil society groups urged Trudeau this month to halt arms exports to Israel, arguing they violate Canadian and international law because the weapons could be are used in the Gaza Strip.

But despite the great pressure since the start of Israel’s war on Gaza on October 7, Canada’s foreign affairs ministry has tried to minimize the state’s role in helping Israel build its arsenal.

“Global Affairs Canada can confirm that Canada has not received any requests, and therefore has not issued any permits, for full weapons systems for major conventional weapons or light weapons to Israel for over 30 years,” said shared with Al Jazeera in an email on Friday.

“The permits issued from October 7, 2023, are for the export of non-lethal equipment.”

But advocates say this misrepresents the amount of Canadian arms exports to Israel, which will top out at more than $15m ($21.3m Canadian) in 2022, according to the government’s own figures .

It also shines a light on the country’s lack of transparency regarding these movements.

“Canadian companies have exported [$84m, $114m Canadian] in military goods to Israel since 2015 when the Trudeau government was elected,” said Michael Bueckert, vice-president of Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East, an advocacy group.

“And they have continued to allow arms exports since October 7 despite the clear threat of genocide in Gaza,” Bueckert told Al Jazeera.

“They cannot defend their own policy, this government is deceiving Canadians into thinking that we are not exporting weapons to Israel at all. As Canadians demand that their government impose an arms embargo on Israel, politicians are trying to pretend that the arms trade does not exist. “

Lack of information

While Canada may not fully transfer weapons systems to Israel, the two countries have a “regular arms trade relationship,” said Kelsey Gallagher, a researcher at Project Ploughshares, a peace research institute.

Most of Canada’s arms exports to Israel come in the form of parts and components. These typically fall into three categories, Gallagher explained: electronics and space equipment; export and military aircraft components; and finally, bombs, missiles, rockets and explosives and general military components.

But beyond those broad categories, gathered by examining Canada’s own domestic and international reports on arms exports, Gallagher said it’s still unclear “what the real pieces of technology are.” .

“We don’t know which companies are exporting them. We don’t know exactly what their final use is,” he told Al Jazeera.

Global Affairs Canada did not immediately respond to Al Jazeera’s question about what “non-lethal equipment” the government has approved for export to Israel since October 7.

“What does this mean? Nobody knows because there’s no explanation for that and really it could be a number of things,” said Henry Off, a Toronto-based lawyer and board member of the Canadian Lawyers for Human Rights group. International (CLAIHR).

Lawyers and human rights activists also suspect that Canadian military components reach Israel through the United States, including installation in fighter jets such as the F-35 aircraft.

But these moves are difficult to track because a decades-old treaty between Canada and the US – the Defense Production Sharing Agreement of 1956 – has created “a unique and extensive set of loopholes available for transfers Canadian military to the US”, said Gallagher.

“These exports are handled with zero transparency. There is no regulation or reporting on the transfer of Canadian-made military parts to the US, including those that may be re-transferred to Israel,” he said.

The result, he said, is that “it is very difficult to challenge problematic trends if we do not have the information to do so”.

Domestic, international law

Despite these obstacles, Canadian human rights advocates are pressing the government to end arms sales to Israel, especially in light of the ongoing Israeli military attack on Gaza.

Nearly 28,000 Palestinians have been killed over the past four months and rights advocates have detailed the impact of Israel’s indiscriminate bombing on the land, and the massive destruction it has wrought on the enclosure. The world’s top court, the International Court of Justice, also ruled last month that Palestinians in Gaza face a credible threat of genocide.

Against that background, it is indeed a demand for “Canada [to] abide by its own laws”, said Off, a Toronto lawyer.

That’s because Canada’s Export and Import Licensing Act requires the Minister of Foreign Affairs to “deny exports and license applications for military goods and technology … if there is a substantial risk that the goods of peace and security”.

The minister should also refuse deportations if they “could be used to commit serious violations of international humanitarian and human rights laws” or in “serious acts of gender-based violence or serious acts of violence against women and children”, the law says. .

At the same time, Canada is also a party to the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT), a United Nations agreement that prohibits transfers if states know that the arms could be used in genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and other violations of international law.

But according to Off, despite a growing list of Israeli human rights violations since October 7, Canada “has been allowing the transfer of military goods and technology that could be used as fuel”.

At the end of last month, Canadian Lawyers for International Human Rights wrote a letter to Canadian Foreign Minister Melanie Joly demanding that the transfers be terminated immediately. The group said it will consider next steps, including possible legal action, if action is not taken.

‘It takes a town’

However, Canada maintains that it maintains one of the strongest arms export control regimes in the world.

When asked if his government plans to halt military transfers to Israel, Trudeau said in Parliament on January 31 that Canada “puts human rights and the protection of human rights at the heart of all our decisions”.

“It has always been true and we have been consistent in making sure that we are responsible in the way we do that. We will continue like that,” the Prime Minister said.

Gallagher, of Project Ploughshares, told Al Jazeera, however, that Canada retains “a degree of discretion” in choosing which countries to arm, including Israel.

“More than [27,000] Palestinians killed, mostly civilians; much of the Gaza Strip has been completely destroyed,” he said, referring to the Israeli offensive. “This is clearly an operation that is not being carried out within the bounds of international humanitarian law, which should color the risk assessment made by Canadian officials.”

epa11134690 Houses destroyed in Al Bureij refugee camp, Gaza Strip, 07 February 2024, following Israeli airstrikes.  More than 27,500 Palestinians and more than 1,300 Israelis have been killed, according to the Palestinian Ministry of Health and the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF), since Hamas militants attacked Israel from the Gaza Strip on October 7, 2023, and Israeli operations in Gaza.  and the West Bank that followed.  EPA-EFE/MOHAMMED SABER
Destroyed houses in the Al Bureij refugee camp, Gaza, on February 7, 2024 [Mohammed Saber/EPA]

And while Canada’s arms exports to the Israeli government pale in comparison to other countries — especially the U.S., which sends billions of dollars in military aid to Israel each year — Off said, “Any difference the difference.”

“It takes a village to make these instruments of death and it should make a difference if we cut Canadian grants,” he told Al Jazeera, adding that the pressure on Canada also sends a message to other countries. “who may be aiding and abetting the killing of Israel. Gaza.”

“If you send weapons to countries that commit serious violations of international humanitarian law, you will be held accountable. “

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