Noting that small arms and light weapons have been “the most frequently used weapons in the majority of recent armed conflicts,” the United Nations Security Council passed Resolution 2117 on September 26, 2013, highlighting the threats posed by the illicit trade in small arms and the importance of action by member countries in order to prevent this scourge.
The resolution recognizes the significant threat that the misuse of small arms has to international peace and security, as well as the human aspect of the related abuses to human rights and the significant loss of life.
The Security Council also recognized the disproportionate impact on violence towards women and girls, noting how the abuse of small arms exacerbates sexual violence and gender-based violence. In light of this particular threat, they urged member nations “to take further measures to facilitate women’s full and meaningful participation in all policymaking, planning and implementation processes” and encouraged those involved in related planning and policymaking “to take into account the particular needs of women and children.”
Noting that the illegal trade in small arms is closely connected to terrorism, transnational organized crime, drug trafficking and many other illegal activities across the globe, as well as its role in fueling conflicts, the Security Council stressed the importance that member states implement the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime and its Protocols, including the Protocol against the Illicit Manufacturing of and Trafficking in Firearms, their Parts, Components and Ammunition, as well as the United Nations Programme of Action to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms in All its Aspects and theInternational Instrument to Enable States to Identify and Trace, in a Timely Manner, Illicit Small Arms and Light Weapons.
With the elimination of the long-gun registry and other changes over the past two years, Canada has significantly weakened its ability to trace guns, with rifles and shotguns now next to impossible to trace. The inability to effectively trace firearms makes it impossible for Canada to comply with these and other international treaties to fight the illicit trade in small arms.
While Canada has signed the UN Firearms Protocol, it has so far refused to ratify it and the implementation of Firearms Act regulations that would allow Canada to comply with the Protocol’s requirements for firearms markings have been repeatedly deferred. The most recent deferral came last fall, after the government proposed significantly weakened regulations to replace those on the books meant to comply with the Protocol’s obligations. With even weakened proposals failing to satisfy the gun lobby, they successfully pressured the government to withdraw the new regulation and to once again defer those that would comply with the Protocol.
While Canada has refused so far to take a position on the Arms Trade Treaty, despite of the signatures of the United States, United Kingdom, France and other important allies, the Security Council urged UN members to sign and ratify the Treaty, noting “the important contribution it can make to international and regional peace, security and stability, reducing human suffering and promoting cooperation.” Pressure from the gun lobby has been identified as a key reason for Canada’s refusal to sign.
With the deferral of the Marking Regulations due to expire on December 1st, the government must soon decide whether or not it will comply with our international commitments. The human cost from refusing to take action to stop the illegal trade in small arms in simply too high to allow the gun lobby and arms industry to continue to decide what actions Canada is willing to take.