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Frequently Asked Questions

What is an “arms embargo”?

It prohibits exporting and importing arms and related materials to and from the targeted country, and may also prohibit communicating technical data or financial transactions related to military activities.” (Global Affairs Canada)

Canadian officials have the power to enact an arms embargo against Israel. In recent years, Canadian officials have imposed arms embargoes on certain states, including Russia, Zimbabwe, and Myanmar, when they are deemed to have committed a serious international breach of peace and security, committed gross and systematic human rights violations, or when officials or their associates are involved in acts of corruption. In the 1980s, Canada imposed a two-way arms embargo on Israel as a response to Israeli violence against Palestinians during the first intifada. There is no reason why an embargo could not be enacted against Israel again today. 

What steps has Canada taken toward an arms embargo?

We have written and phoned our MPs, picketed their offices, marched in the streets, and taken action with our neighbours. 

In March, the NDP put forward a motion in Parliament that called on Canada to “suspend all trade in military goods and technology with Israel.”  To avoid a split in the Liberal caucus, the Trudeau government negotiated a watered-down version of the motion, including a clause that would “cease the further authorization and transfer of arms exports to Israel to ensure compliance with Canada’s arms export regime…” That version of the motion passed with 204 in favour and 117 against. It was moved by the NDP with the support of the Bloc Québécois, Greens, and almost all Liberal MPs, including Prime Minister Trudeau and Foreign Affairs Minister Joly. Only the Conservatives and three other MPs voted against it. Though the motion was non-binding, Foreign Minister Melanie Joly said that she intended to honour it. However, as of the publication of this statement at the end of April, 2024, she has not yet formalized the cessation of arms export authorizations. Moreover, suspending future export authorizations and transfers to Israel does not go far enough, given the gravity of Israel’s violations of international humanitarian law in Gaza.

Is Canada exporting military goods to Israel?

In comparison, Canadian companies exported $21.3M to Israel in military goods in 2022, and $27.8M in 2021. This means that Canada approved more exports of military goods to Israel in just the first three months of Israel’s genocidal war on Gaza than in any single year in the last 30 years. Since Trudeau has been in power (2015-2023), Canadian companies have exported an estimated $150 million in military goods to Israel overall. These exports involve private companies profiting by obtaining approval from Global Affairs Canada for export licenses.

On previous occasions, Joly has said that Canada paused miliary exports to Israel after January 8, 2024.  Joly explained that this was because of Canada’s “inability to confirm that human rights are being upheld and, of course, that our export regime requirements would be met.” Following the adoption of the motion by Parliament, one would expect Minister Joly to turn this temporary pause on approvals into a formal ban.

What are some examples of military goods that Canada has imported from Israel?

In 2015, Rheinmetall Canada teamed up with Israel Aerospace subsidiary ELTA Systems to provide the Canadian Armed Forces with  Medium Range Radar systems, adapting technology used by the Israeli military’s Iron Dome anti-missile defense system. It has been called “most advanced active 3D air defence and target acquisition radar that is part of the Canadian Army inventory,” and its development involved a technology transfer from ELTA to Rheinmetall Canada. The original deal was valued at $243.3 million dollars Canadian, and its completion paved the way for subsequent Rheinmetall Canada – IAI / ELTA collaborations.

What kind of components are transferred to Israel via the U.S. and what weapons are they used in?

  • Companies that participate in the F-35 program include: Honeywell, Magellan Aerospace, Apex Industries, ASCO Aerospace Canada, Ben Machine Products, PCC Aerostructures Centra and others. 
  • Lockheed Martin’s F-35 fighter jets have become emblematic of the loophole that allows Canadian-made weapons components to be transferred, unregulated and unreported, to Israel via the U.S.
  • Héroux-Devtek, headquartered in Quebec, contributes parts and landing gear to Boeing’s F-15 fighter jet  program. It’s among the Canadian companies that supply components for Boeing’s F-15s, which are used by the Israeli Air Force to bomb Gaza.

Canadian companies also supply parts for Boeing’s AH-64 Apache helicopters, which are also used by the Israeli Air Force.

What is the legal case for an arms embargo?

Given Israel’s assault on Gaza, which has killed more than 34,500 Palestinians, 70% of whom are women and children, and given Israel’s military occupation and its system of apartheid over the Palestinian people, there is a clear and undeniable risk that Canadian weapons could be implicated in war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Under the Genocide Convention, Canada is obliged to “prevent and punish” the crime of genocide.  In January 2024, ​​the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruled that there is a “plausible” case that Israel is committing acts of genocide in Gaza, and that Palestinians there face a “real and imminent risk” of genocide. By reiterating that States have an obligation to prevent genocide, the ICJ ruling puts Canada on notice that, as a party to the Genocide Convention, it must do everything within its power to prevent genocide in Gaza. 

Canada’s obligations under international law have been articulated by UN experts who warned that in light of the fact that “Israel has repeatedly failed to comply with international law” in Gaza,  “any transfer of weapons or ammunition to Israel that would be used in Gaza is likely to violate international humanitarian law and must cease immediately,” and by the UN Human Rights Council which in April passed a resolution calling on all states to “cease the sale, transfer and diversion of arms, munitions and other military equipment to Israel.”

What does Canada still need to do to impose a comprehensive arms embargo on Israel?

It requires closing the loophole that allows Canadian arms and components to be exported to Israel via the United States.  A full arms embargo requires banning the import of weapons, military equipment,and surveillance technology from Israeli companies and the Israeli government. It also involves prohibiting the import and export of “dual-use” technology and equipment to Israel. The government has laws and policy tools that it can use to enact these measures.

What military goods are exported to Israel?

The government justifies this secrecy by claiming that it must protect the commercial privacy of weapons makers and dealers. It values the privacy of war profiteers over the public’s right to know. On the record, the government only provides vague categories that give a general sense of the type of military exports. This makes it extremely hard for the public to evaluate the true human rights impact of Canada’s exports.

In March, the CBC reported that Canada is considering a request to export thirty armoured patrol vehicles to Israel, but has been dragging its feet on making a decision. Following the passage of Parliament’s motion for an end to further transfers, Canada should officially reject the request.

In recent years, the main categories of Canada’s military exports to Israel have included:
1) bombs, torpedoes, rockets, missiles, other explosive devices (and related components);
2) military aircraft and/or related components,
3) military spacecraft and/or related components.

Keep in mind that when talking about components, we mean smaller pieces that are added to a larger weapons system (for example, a tail wing or piece of landing gear that is later added to a fighter jet, or a sensor that is added onto a missile or drone). Government sources have suggested that Canada has not exported full weapons systems since October 7, 2023, but that doesn’t rule out the possibility that Canadian components of larger weapons systems are being exported, thus implicating them in the killing of Palestinians.

In addition to the above, Canada exports weapons to Israel via the United States, and due to loopholes, this trade is completely unreported and thus unregulated under Canadian export law for military equipment. For example, Canada produces different components that become part of all F-35 fighter jets, such as parts of the landing gear, pieces of the engine, and segments of the wings. This means that the Israeli F-35s which are involved in bombing civilians in the Gaza Strip are all equipped with Canadian parts. However, because these parts are first sent to the United States, where they are added to the F-35 before being shipped to Israel, these exports are not included in Canada’s overall military export numbers. It also means that these exports are not subjected to a human rights risk assessment. The problem of Canada’s arms exports to Israel is therefore much bigger than it first appears based on available data and reporting from Global Affairs Canada. We know it is happening because Canadian companies boast in their press release about having contracts to produce F35 parts.

No but really, what are some examples of military goods that Canadian companies export to Israel?

IAI is state-owned and is Israel’s major aerospace and aviation manufacturer.

INKAS has sold the Israeli government  ‘more command & control units than any other supplier in history’

Kraken Robotics supplies Elbit Systems its KATFISH towed sonar system, for use in the Seagull USV which the Israeli military is using off the coast of Gaza.