Canada Falls Behind U.S. on Global Arms Trade Treaty

Project Ploughshares senior staffer has spent years supporting the Arms Trade Treaty

Project Ploughshares senior staffer Ken Epps has spent years supporting the Arms Trade Treaty

On September 25, 2013, the Globe and Mail carried a front page headline:  Canada holds off joining U.N. global arms trade treaty. The story detailed a scenario familiar to peace promoters who had succeeded in getting the landmark treaty through a complex United Nations process.

Ottawa’s attributes its foot-dragging to worries over how the treaty would affect gun owners from Grand Falls to  Granite Bay. But United States has now joined the global treaty even over the objections of its own muscular gun lobby.

Having read the Globe story, producers from CBC-Radio’s flagship interview programme caught up with Ken Epps, senior staffer for Project Ploughshares. Mr. Epps has spent years working in the United Nations system to promote the treaty.

Following these revelations and the interview with Mr. Epps, a Canadian Press reporter chased comment from domestic gun boosters. Not surprisingly, the firearms folks thought that Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird is turning in a virtuoso performance in resisting the treaty. Indeed, the praise was unblushingly unabashed.

“Minister Baird has been very thoughtful and intelligent on the Arms Trade Treaty right from Day One,” said Tony Bernardo of the Canadian Sports Shooting Association. “At the beginning of the process he asked the United Nations to remove civilian firearms from scope of the treaty. He’s seen the writing on the wall. He’s not a dumb man.”

Sheldon Clare, president of Canada’s National Firearms Association, was rather more analytical in predicting that Canada would not follow its gun-friendly neighbors to the South. He agreed with Ken Epps on the politics of the matter. “I think they also recognize there would be some significant ramifications in their voting base were they to approve this,” explained Mr. Clare.

The United Nations Arms Trade Treaty would at last control the global flows of conventional weapons, including small arms and light weapons. Such weapons sustain civil wars in countries like the Democratic Republic of Congo – some five million dead in the bloodiest conflict since the Second World War – and, most recently, Syria.