Increasing demands for Canada to stop supplying weapons to Israel News of the Israeli war on Gaza

Montreal Canada – Human rights advocates accuse Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government of misleading the public about arms sales to Israel, which have come under greater scrutiny amid the deadly Israeli offensive. Bombing Gaza.

The debate is over legislation that prohibits the government from exporting military equipment to foreign parties if there is a risk that it could be used for human rights violations.

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

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

But in the face Pressure mounting Since the Israeli war on Gaza began on October 7, the Canadian Foreign Ministry has tried to downplay the country’s role in helping Israel build its arsenal.

“Global Affairs Canada can confirm that Canada has not received any requests, and therefore issued no permits, for complete weapons systems for major conventional weapons or light weapons to Israel in more than 30 years,” the ministry told Al Jazeera in an email on Friday. .

He added, “The permits that have been granted since October 7, 2023 are intended for the export of non-lethal equipment.”

But advocates say this misrepresents the total volume of Canadian military exports to Israel, which totaled more than $15 million ($21.3 million CAD) in 2022, according to the government’s own figures.

It also highlights the country’s long-standing lack of transparency around these transfers.

“Canadian companies have exported more than $84 million (C$114 million) in military goods to Israel since 2015 when the Trudeau government was elected,” said Michael Buckert, vice president of Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East, an advocacy group. “.

He continued: “They have continued to approve the export of weapons since October 7, despite the clarity Threat of genocide Bouckaert told Al Jazeera in Gaza.

“This government, unable to defend its own policy, is misleading Canadians into believing that we are not Arms export For Israel at all. As Canadians increasingly demand their government impose an arms embargo on Israel, politicians are trying to pretend that the arms trade does not exist.

Lack of information

Kelsey Gallagher, a researcher at the peace research institute Project Plowshares, said that while Canada may not transfer complete weapons systems to Israel, the two countries have an “established arms trade relationship.”

The vast majority of Canadian military exports to Israel come in the form of spare parts and components. Gallagher explained that these typically fall into three categories: electronics and aerospace equipment; Exports and military aviation components; Finally, bombs, missiles, rocket-propelled grenades, explosives and general military components.

But beyond these broad categories, which were drawn by examining Canada’s domestic and international reports on arms exports, Gallagher said it remains unclear “what these actual pieces of technology are.”

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

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

“What does this mean? No one knows because there is no definition for it, and it could be quite a number of things,” said Henry Off, a Toronto-based lawyer and board member of the Canadian Lawyers for International Human Rights (CLAIHR).

Human rights lawyers and activists also suspect that Canadian military components are arriving in Israel via the United States, including being installed in fighter jets such as F-35 aircraft.

But these transfers are difficult to trace because the decades-old agreement between Canada and the United States — the 1956 Defense Production Sharing Agreement — created “a unique and comprehensive set of loopholes made possible by Canadian arms transfers to the United States,” Gallagher said.

“These exports are handled with zero transparency. There is no regulation or reporting on the transfer of Canadian-made military components to the United States, including those that could be transferred back to Israel.”

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

Domestic and international law

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

Nearly 28,000 Palestinians have been killed over the past four months, and human rights advocates have meticulously documented the impact of Israel’s indiscriminate bombing on the ground and its widespread destruction of the Strip. The world’s highest court, the International Court of Justice, also decided last month that Palestinians in Gaza face danger Reasonable risk of genocide.

Against this background, halting arms transfers to Israel is in effect a requirement that “Canada (abide by) its own laws,” said Off, the Toronto lawyer.

This is because Canada’s Export and Import Permits Act requires the Secretary of State to “refuse applications for export and brokerage permits for military goods and technology… if there is a significant risk that such items will undermine peace and security.”

The law stipulates that the minister must also refuse exports if they “could be used to commit or facilitate 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.” .

Meanwhile, Canada is also a party to the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT), a UN treaty that prohibits transfers if countries know the weapons can be used for genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and other violations of international law.

But according to Off, despite the growing list of Israeli human rights violations Since October 7, Canada has approved “the transfer of goods and military technology that may fuel them.”

Late last month, Canadian Lawyers for International Human Rights wrote a letter to Canadian Foreign Minister Mélanie Jolie demanding an immediate halt to the transfers. The group said it would consider next steps, including potential legal action, if action is not taken.

‘It takes the village’

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

Asked whether his government intended to end arms transfers to Israel, Trudeau said in Parliament on January 31 that Canada “places human rights and the protection of human rights at the heart of all our decision-making.”

“That has always been the case and we have been consistent in making sure we are responsible in the way we do it. We will continue to do so,” the Prime Minister said.

However, Gallagher, of the Plowshares Project, told Al Jazeera that Canada maintains a “level of permissibility” in which countries choose to arm it, including Israel.

“More than (27 thousand) Palestinians were martyred, the vast majority of them civilians; A large part of the Gaza Strip was completely destroyed,” he said, referring to the Israeli attack. “This is clearly an operation that is not being conducted within the bounds of international humanitarian law, which should influence the risk assessment conducted by Canadian officials.”

epa11134690 Destroyed homes in Bureij refugee camp, Gaza Strip, February 7, 2024, following Israeli air strikes.  More than 27,500 Palestinians and more than 1,300 Israelis have been killed, according to the Palestinian Ministry of Health and the Israeli military, since Hamas militants launched an attack on Israel from the Gaza Strip on October 7, 2023, and Israeli operations in Gaza.  And the following West Bank.  EPA-EFE/Mohamed Saber
Destroyed homes in Bureij refugee camp, Gaza, February 7, 2024. (Mohammed Saber/EPA)

While Canadian arms exports to the Israeli government pale in comparison to other countries – especially the United States, which sends billions of dollars to Israel. Military aid to Israel Annually – “Any difference is a difference,” Ove said.

“It takes a village to make these instruments of death, and it should make a difference if we cut off Canada’s contributions,” he told Al Jazeera, adding that pressure on Canada also sends a message to other countries “potentially aiding and abetting Israel’s massacre.” Gaza”.

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

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