Amnesty International, Oxfam Canada and others say Canada has fairly high standards for the control of arms, but has not been vocal in urging others to follow suit.
Now, with a fresh round of UN negotiations on an arms-control treaty about to begin next week in New York, they want a clear statement from Stephen Harper, and Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird to attend the talks.
They say countries opposing higher standards — such as Syria, Egypt, Iran and Cuba — are blocking progress in the negotiations.
The groups say 119 Canadian parliamentarians have signed a global declaration in support of a strong treaty to regulate the arms trade.
The treaty is would oblige countries to halt shipments of weapons and ammunition that would lead to violations of human rights or humanitarian law.