Canada tries to exempt hunting rifles from UN Arms Trade Treaty negotiations
by Bryn Weese
Sun Parliamentary Bureau
The Canadian government is trying to spare hunting rifles and sporting arms from a United Nations one-size-fits-all international standard to regulate the flow of weapons around the world.
Gun advocates in Canada praised the feds Friday, but gun control advocates and the opposition blasted the move as an irresponsible ploy to hamper the UN’s efforts to save lives.
On Thursday, Canadian diplomats at the treaty’s preliminary negotiations in New York tried to exempt sporting and hunting firearms in the treaty’s preamble, remove ammunition and other high-volume items from the reporting requirements and add a clause that reads, in part, “small arms have certain legitimate civilian uses, including sporting, hunting and collecting purposes.”
Tony Bernardo, a spokesman for the Canadian Shooting Sports Association, derided the UN as “incredibly anti-gun” and said Canada’s attempts to exempt sporting arms is the right call.
“The UN is trying to create a treaty to regulate the acquisition and movement of all conventional weapons that aren’t nuclear, chemical or biological. In terms of scope, they want it to cover everything from pointed sticks to aircraft carriers,” Bernardo said. “What Canada is saying is they don’t want civilian firearms and firearm accessories tied in with military stuff.
“They don’t want our Marlin .30-30 hunting rifle coming into Canada to have to go through the same kind of regulatory process that a jet fighter has to go through.”
But NDP foreign affairs critic Paul Dewar said the government’s position is “wildly parochial” and confuses legitimate ownership of legal guns with the arms trade fuelling conflicts around the world.
“This (personal gun ownership) is not at all in line with what we’re talking about here, and to equate the two I think is wrong and really makes us look immature on the world stage,” Dewar said Friday. “Small arms have been noted as the weapons of mass destruction in places like Africa. This is important work that has been ongoing for a number of years and they’ve made some progress.”
“Sadly, what we saw yesterday (Thursday) was a wildly parochial stance by our government.”
A spokesman for Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird said Canada’s position was based on fairness for “law-abiding hunters and sportsmen.
“We received a strong mandate to implement our platform, including abolishing the wasteful long-gun registry,” Chris Day wrote in an e-mail. “It does not make sense to abolish that registry at home only to support one internationally.”
Gun-control advocates following the treaty negotiations blasted Canada’s stance, calling it a “poison pill for treaty negotiations.”
“The Canadian stipulation that sporting and hunting firearms should be exempt from the scope of the treaty reveals that the Canadian government is living in a regulatory dream world. It has proved impossible, at the international level, to agree to a distinction between civilian and military small arms and light weapons,” Project Ploughshare’s Ken Epps said in a news statement Thursday.
He added that he thinks Canada’s position shows the government doesn’t understand the treaty’s purpose.
“The ATT (Arms Trade Treaty) does not apply to civilian ownership or domestic transfers of firearms or any other type of weapon. It is about ensuring effective regulation of international transfers of conventional weapons.”
Successive Liberal and Conservative governments have routinely delayed by years the implementation of a separate United Nations small-arms marking regulation that would require guns to be stamped with individual markings when imported into a country. The feds and the gun lobby have said the program is unworkable and would cost so much that sporting arms would be unaffordable.
Bernardo said the arms trade treaty being discussed at the UN would be equally flawed because it’s being drawn up by people who are in the dark about weapons and firearms.
“When you talk arms trade to the United States, you’re talking about a nuclear missile boat, but when you’re talking about the arms trade to a representative from the Congo, you’re talking about a shipment of machetes,” he said. “These things are chalk and cheese, they’re completely unrelated and I don’t know how they’re going to get a one-size-fits-all solution to it.
“And responsible countries already do this. Canada doesn’t sell arms to terrorist groups around the world. Albania might, and even if we have an arms treaty, they still might.”
Dewar said people used the same argument against the ban on using land mines, but that has resulted in far fewer land mines being used.
“Is it perfect? No, but it is progress,” Dewar said.
The United Nations first passed a resolution calling on member states to work towards an arms trade treaty in 2006.
Original source: Toronto Sun