How Our Nation Supports Illegal Weapons

06/04/2013 08:21 EDT | Updated 08/04/2013 05:12 EDT

On Monday I asked Canada's foreign affairs minister about the Arms Trade Treaty. He responded with a conspiracy theory.

The United Nations Arms Trade Treaty is the most important step the international community has taken to regulate the multi-billion dollar global weapons trade. It will help keep small arms and heavy weapons out of the hands of warlords and tyrants, and save lives in places like Syria and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Shamefully, the Conservative government acted as a spoiler during the treaty negotiations. The only civil society representative on Canada's delegation was from the gun lobby -- a man who was hailed by the NRA as one of its "beacons of hope."

The Conservatives threatened to undermine the entire treaty if regulations on arms brokering weren't watered down. The Canadian government repeatedly aligned itself with such dubious partners as Belarus, Iran, and Syria in efforts to weaken the treaty.

When the treaty was eventually agreed in March, the government said it needed more time to consider whether to sign and ratify the treaty.

It's now had more than two months. In the meantime, numerous countries including the United States have pledged to sign the treaty. Yet the Canadian government has remained silent.

Monday morning, at a high-level ceremony in New York, senior officials and ambassadors from 61 countries signed the treaty. These included government ministers from key Canadian allies such as Australia, Norway, Spain, and the United Kingdom. Canada didn't show up.

Meanwhile, our own Minister of Foreign Affairs was in Ottawa. When I asked him during Question Period Monday afternoon about the government's failure to take a clear stance on arms regulation, he blustered that the treaty could constitute a "back door" to a long-gun registry.

This treaty is designed to regulate the global arms trade. It is not about domestic use. The American Secretary of State acknowledged this fact today, noting that the treaty would not infringe on the rights of gun owners.

What the Minister said was untrue and misleading. Either the Minister misunderstands the treaty, or else he deliberately misrepresented the facts. Neither is a comforting thought.

Hundreds of thousands of people die every year as a result of armed conflict. This treaty will help them. Dozens of countries have realized this, and have joined together to pursue a safer and more prosperous future.

Canada should join the world in ending the illegal flow of weapons to the world's worst conflicts.

It's time to sign.

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