Canada Has a History of Exporting Military Equipment Across the World, yet Monitoring the Size and Extent of the Arms Business Is Not as Easy as It Looks.
Canada has a history of exporting military equipment across the world, yet monitoring the size and extent of the arms business is not as easy as it looks.
In fact a closer look could leave you shocked, not all trades are documented well and it remains difficult to know the true value of Canadian arms export market. It is not easy to estimate the numbers and value of the arms the country is sending out into the world.
Military grade equipment is made by big players in the Canadian market. Armored vehicles for use on battlefields, Long-range rifles and the technology behind bomb guidance systems remain a few things that Canadian companies excel at. Yet we don’t know anything about how many of these are being made and exported.
“There is really no way to get a complete picture of specifically what kinds of weapons and other equipment is being produced, and where it is potentially going and where it can end up.” Kenneth Epps, a policy adviser at Ploughshares Project, an NGO that monitors Canada’s military industry said
Recently, Canadian news organizations have reported that advanced sniper rifles manufactured by a Winnipeg company, PGW Defence Technologies could have fallen into the hands of Houthi rebals in Yemen. The Houthi rebals remain at the centre of international conflict and are fighting a war against forces backed by Saudi Arabia.
People who closely follow the Canadian arms trade market were shocked to see the Canadian made guns being displayed proudly by Houthi rebels on posts made in social media. Many remarked that the Canadian arms trade lacked transparency which could cause human rights violations.
“Of course military goods can be used to protect people, but they can also cause of a lot of damage. It is life and death. Considering the consequences, there has to be more transparency,” Hilary Homes of Amnesty International Canada said.
Canadian companies also make other kinds of military grade technology including advanced sighting systems, surveillance drones, chemical agents for controlling crowds and related equipment.
However specific data is not easily available and still remains very difficult to obtain. There are various monitoring groups apart from the government departments that collect and publish data on the arms market but each uses various definitions making comparisons and analysis very difficult.
For example, export data could be complicated by the names of categories being fairly unclear. They could just be labeled ‘technology’ or have names such as ‘specially designed components’.
Some data that is available shows that the nation had a good year in 2012 and exported more than $1 billion worth in military good and technology category. But the data in the report did not include military arms and technology exported to the U.S. As Canada mostly produces parts and components of larger weapons and weapon systems it is tricky to know where these are actually going or where they could potentially be used.
When an export permit is granted it is assumed that the country they export to will be where the part or defence component is used, however it could be incorporated into larger weapons made in the country where the parts were exported to and then shipped off to other countries.
But things are looking up as the liberals have committed to sign the United Nation’s Arms Trade Treaty (ATT). Canada remains the only remaining NATO-member to not have signed the agreement. This agreement requires countries to produce detailed annual reports on arms exports and lays out specific criteria for risk assessments. So it looks like there could be more clarity on the arms market in the future.