Arm sales to Ukraine re­main mys­tery

National Post (National Edition) - - CANADA - Lee Berthiaume

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.

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