Arm sales to Ukraine remain mystery
OTTAWA • Six months after the federal government opened the door to the export of Canadian-made weapons to Ukraine, which is locked in a war with separatist rebels, it remains a mystery as to whether any have actually arrived.
Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland announced in December that the government was adding Ukraine to the Automatic Firearms Country Control List, which is a list of countries eligible for arms exports. As a result, Canadian companies and individuals can now apply to Freeland for permission to export prohibited weapons and other previously banned equipment to Ukraine.
But Global Affairs Canada has refused to say whether any requests for a permit to export arms to Ukraine have been received, let alone approved.
“Each permit application will be assessed on a case-bycase basis to ensure its consistency with Canada’s international obligations and foreign policy and defence priorities,” Global Affairs Canada spokesman John Babcock said in an email.
“For reasons of commercial confidentiality, the department does not comment on any applications for export permits.”
Freeland’s decision to add Ukraine to the firearms control list was greeted with applause from Kyiv, which has long lobbied for more military assistance from Canada and the West as government troops fight Russian-backed separatists.
More than 10,000 people, many of them civilians, have been killed in the fighting in the region known as the Donbass, while another 20,000 have been wounded and hundreds of thousands forced from their homes.
Opponents of Canadian arms exports have worried about these weapons adding to the carnage.
“Canada’s support for Ukraine’s sovereignty, security, and prosperity has nothing to do with the risk that Canadian-made automatic firearms exported there might be misused,” said Cesar Jaramillo, executive director of Project Ploughshares.
At the same time, Jaramillo was both puzzled and concerned by the government’s refusal to say whether any permits had been received or approved, given that the Liberals have committed to annual reports on arms exports.
“An overly broad interpretation of commercial confidentiality can undermine the government’s stated commitment to transparency around the arms trade,” Jaramillo added.