Sale of automatic weapons | More and more countries authorized by Canada

The list of countries to which Canada authorizes the sale of prohibited automatic weapons on its own territory has continued to grow since its creation in 1991. From 10 countries included on the original list, there are now 46, some of which have not not an exemplary human rights record.

These 36 new countries were added by the adoption of successive decrees by the Canadian government since 1991 (see our table). The most recent, Qatar and North Macedonia, were added on August 31, 2022.

The addition of countries to the original list (officially known as Canada’s Designated Countries (Automatic Weapons) List or LPDAA) began in 1992 with the inclusion of Saudi Arabia, with which Canada had just concluded a $800 million agreement for the sale of 1,117 light armored vehicles (LAV).

“Typically, the addition of a country to the list coincides with a jump in Canadian arms sales to a foreign country,” notes Kelsey Gallagher, a researcher at Project Plowshares, a peace research institute linked to the Canadian Council of Churches.

Positive or problematic list?

Created in 1991 under the government of Brian Mulroney, the LPDAA is, still today, presented as “a positive list of countries to which Canadians can submit a request to export certain prohibited items”, on the condition that the sale is made to the government of one of these countries or to “a user authorized by the country in question”.

According to a document sent to us by Global Affairs Canada, the products affected by the regulation include automatic weapons, but also automatic weapons modified to fire only one shot, elements or parts of weapons as well as magazines.

The Canadian government is proud to be the only one in the world to maintain such a register which makes it possible to limit the export of automatic weapons. It is added that Canadian manufacturers and exporters of military equipment “are of the opinion that the LPDAA places them at a disadvantage compared to their international competitors”. The inclusion of new “judiciously chosen” countries helps mitigate this disadvantage, the official documents add.

Among peace defenders, the government’s argument raises eyebrows. “The LPDAA is an interesting instrument which limits exports (…), but we have seen the list grow from year to year to include a quarter of the planet,” notes Kelsey Gallagher. He describes finding countries “which have human rights issues” as “problematic”.

The organization Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East (CJPME) also expresses its concern.

“The sale of automatic firearms to countries like Saudi Arabia and Turkey, which have been subject to temporary restrictions on arms exports in recent years, is absurd and shows that Canadian regulations lack any meaningful standard for determining a risk to human rights,” writes Michael Bueckert, vice-president of this organization.

It is equally critical to see Israel on this list, even if he recognizes that the export of Canadian automatic weapons to that country is minimal. On March 20, Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly announced that Canada would stop sending weapons to Israel. “A step in the right direction,” says Mr. Bueckert.

In 2022, the total value of Canadian exports of military goods and technologies (excluding the United States) reached $2.12 billion, including $21.3 million to Israel (1% of all sales).

Saudi Arabia is by far the largest customer with purchases totaling 1.15 billion. However, its record in terms of human rights is far from stellar, we note when reading Amnesty International’s 2022-2023 annual report.

In a diplomatic note

Two internal notes from the Canadian Department of National Defense obtained by The Press thanks to the Access to Information Act raise the idea that the addition of countries to the LPDAA has implications for the country’s diplomatic relations.

One of these notes was given in 2022 to Defense Minister Anita Anand (now President of the Treasury Board) ahead of a telephone conversation with her Qatari counterpart, Khalid bin Mohammed Al- Attiyah, in order to highlight the good relations between the two countries in terms of defense and to prepare for a possible visit by the latter to Canada.

“On August 31, 2022, Qatar was added to the list of countries controlled for automatic firearms. This addition will allow the sale and transfer of prohibited weapons and other technologies by the Canadian defense industry to Qatar,” the document highlights among the elements of bilateral relations.

With the collaboration of William Leclerc from the office of The Press in Ottawa

Countries included on the original list (1991)

  • Germany
  • Belgium
  • Denmark
  • France
  • Italy
  • Norway
  • The Netherlands
  • Sweden
  • United Kingdom

Countries added (and years of corresponding decrees) since 1991

  • Saudi Arabia (1992)
  • Australia (1993)
  • Spain (1993)
  • Botswana (2001)
  • Greece (2002)
  • New Zealand (2002)
  • Finland (2005)
  • Latvia (2005)
  • Poland (2005)
  • Portugal (2005)
  • Bulgaria (2008)
  • Estonia (2008)
  • Hungary (2008)
  • Iceland (2008)
  • Lithuania (2008)
  • Luxembourg (2008)
  • Czech Republic (2008; amended as Czechia in 2020)
  • Romania (2008)
  • Slovakia (2008)
  • Slovenia (2008)
  • Türkiye (2008)
  • Albania (2011)
  • Croatia (2011)
  • Republic of Colombia (2012; amended as Colombia in 2020)
  • Chile (2014)
  • Peru (2014)
  • Republic of Korea (2014; amended as Korea in 2020)
  • Israel (2015)
  • Kuwait (2015)
  • Ukraine (2017)
  • Austria (2020)
  • Ireland (2020)
  • Japan (2020)
  • Switzerland (2020)
  • North Macedonia (2022)
  • Qatar (2022)

Total: 46 countries, including 10 on the original list


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