In line with its Conservative cousins in the UK, Canada’s government has moved to increase arms sales by removing some restrictions on exports. Diane Finley, the Minister of Public Works tasked with managing a review of the items that can be exported, announced recently that more than half the items would be taken off the list. (In other words, items deemed too dangerous to export in 2002, are now considered safe). In keeping with this governments habit of secrecy, the review was announced with little fanfare.
According to Finley’s statement, reported by Lee Berthiaume in the Ottawa citizen, the purpose of the review was to align Canada’s policies with that of the US.
Arms sold by Canada to the Saudi dictatorship were recently used to suppress democracy demonstrations in nearby Bahrain. Bahrain is home of the US Fifth Fleet, and the US has been reluctant to support democratic movements which could destabilise the ruling dictators who gave them permission to be there. Likewise Canada’s foreign affairs Minister John Baird has given support to the Bahrain dictators, over democracy protesters.
Lee Berthiaume reported that Canada would like to widen exports to countries like Chile, Peru, South Korea and Brazil. (Brazil may not be so keen after recent allegations of Canadian industrial spying). Whether the list will be expanded to a longer list of autocratic countries isn’t clear. But if the government is willing to export arms to the Saudi dictatorship, one assumes that our government will have few limitations on who it sells to.
When the UK Conservative government greatly expanded the list of export targets, they were quickly stung by the Arab Spring, which revealed them in numerous arms trade transactions with Colonel Qadaffi of Libya.