To the editor:
Canada off-track of peace and democracy agenda
It’s old news that Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird refused to sign the international Arms Trade Treaty. He argued that the treaty will attempt to regulate domestic recreational firearms.
Whether this was a serious or a sham argument is anyone’s guess. No other country in the world suggested the same, not even the gun-toting U.S.
Angela Kane, the UN High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, has emphasized that the treaty is about the arms trade, not private gun ownership. Global arms sales have been steadily increasing, she says, contributing to war and instability in countries like Syria and Somalia.
It’s my guess that Baird is not as stupid as he seems on this issue, and is instead acting as the fall guy for the arms industry. Canada exported $12 billion worth of arms in 2011, not counting those shipped to our largest customer, the U.S.
We know how the Harper government is about the Canadian economy. Anything goes is the rule of thumb. So we find ourselves in the position of shipping arms to countries such as Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Algeria and Iraq, where human rights violations are abundant and violent internal conflicts abound.
That fact seems to have gone over the head of MP Ron Cannan, who recently mashed together the good news about retaining a Veterans Affairs service agent in Kelowna with the good news that Canada’s export market for military products is strengthening. Whereas other countries take pride in exporting oranges or solar panels, we take pride in exporting death.
In the case of Canada’s performance on the Cluster Munitions treaty, high-minded principles led to Canada rejecting these weapons, which are savagely harmful to civilians. But political convenience led to the government writing a loophole into the proposed bill to ratify the signed treaty. The loophole allowed Canada’s military to use cluster bombs in joint operations with the U.S., who have refused to sign the treaty.
In the face of strong global and domestic opposition, Canada has since amended the legislation to prohibit Canadian military personnel from directly using cluster munitions. But it’s only a partial win for common decency, since they might still participate in operations where the bombs are used by others.
There’s been no change in policy, no matter how weak, in relation to Canada’s willingness to use information derived from torture. The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, of which Canada is a member, has been unable to make headway in convincing Canada to abide by the Convention Against Torture, which it has both signed and ratified.
As a Christmas present to others in the world, we should perhaps sit down and write cards to Ron Cannan, John Baird and the prime minister, asking them to take an unwavering stand for international peace, democracy and stability.