Exporting arms

Letter in today’s Globe and Mail in response to the editorial, “Ottawa Comes Clean on Arms Exports” (17 August 2016)

The choices for controlling military exports are not to either “block arms sales to anyone who might actually use them” or “be realistic about weapons sales” (Ottawa Comes Clean On Arms Exports, editorial, Aug. 17). The point of export controls is to block arms sales to anyone with a penchant for using them unlawfully.

As for being “realistic” about weapons sales, should Canada export weapons to any country not specifically defined as an enemy, without any regard for a recipient’s disrespect for the rule of law – for human rights, the laws of war, or the protection of civilians? Is that “maturity”?

The government’s policy changes flout at least two fundamental principles of responsible military export controls: that military commodities are a special category of goods, the international transfers of which are to be restricted in ways not applicable to most civilian commodities; and that weapons suppliers are culpable if they knowingly ship weapons to customers with a demonstrable inclination to use them unlawfully – for example, against civilians.

Ernie Regehr, Waterloo, Ont.

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