Canada should conduct a human rights review of the military goods it has exported to the Colombian police and army

Published by Brent Patterson on

Photo by La Jornada.

In its most recent report on Canada’s export of military goods, the Government of Canada says it “strives to ensure that … Canadian goods and technology are not used in a manner that is prejudicial to human rights…”

With that in mind, we note that Temblores has documented 2,387 cases of police brutality, 472 violent interventions by the public force (police and army) and 18 sexual assaults by the public force in Colombia between April 28 and May 18.

United Nations and Organization of American States human rights experts have also stated: “We are deeply distressed by the excessive and unlawful use of force by police and members of the ESMAD (Mobile Anti-Riot Squad) against peaceful demonstrators, human rights defenders and journalists across Colombia.”

Given this, we believe Canada should review its export of weapons and other supplies that may be used to repress social protests in Colombia. That review should also include exports to third countries that then ship arms to Colombia.

Annual report on military exports

Global Affairs Canada produces an annual Report on the Export of Military Goods.

The annual report must be tabled in Parliament prior to May 31 of the subsequent calendar year. As such, the report on the military goods exported by Canada in 2020 should be publicly available within the next 12 days.

Exports to Colombia in recent years

In 2018, Canada exported $310,576.25 of military goods to Colombia. In 2017, it was $114,688.85. In 2016, it was $215,066.11. And it 2015 it was $522,203. In 2014, it was $44,754,393.

In January 2013, the Colombian Ministry of National Defence awarded a USD $65.3 million contract to a Canadian company for 24 Light Armoured Vehicles (LAVs) for the Colombian Army. The contract was signed through the Canadian Commercial Corporation, a Crown Agency of the Government of Canada.

In May 2014, another Canadian company reported it would supply 4 Huron tactical attack and defense vehicles to the National Police of Colombia. In April 2015, the same manufacturer had a tendered order 26 Huron vehicles for the Colombian police.

Exports via the United States

The 2019 report on Canada’s export of military goods notes: “With the exception of those items that require a permit for export to the United States, Global Affairs Canada does not collect data on most military exports to the U.S.” Project Ploughshares (an organization co-founded by PBI co-founder Murray Thomson) has commented that most arms exports from Canada to the United States are parts and components.

The U.S. International Trade Administration reports: “According to official estimates, U.S. imports market share in 2019 represented 25 percent of Colombia’s total imports of military equipment.” Without greater transparency and more detail, it is not possible to know if Canadian-made parts and components are in those U.S. exports to Colombia.

Next steps

In November 2018, the Minister of Foreign Affairs announced that Canada was conducting a review of all export permits to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia that included a review of Canadian exports of military goods and technology used to commit or facilitate serious violations of international human rights law, including internal repression.

That review also examined if there was a substantial risk that Canadian exports of military goods and technology would be used to commit or facilitate serious acts of gender-based violence, or serious acts of violence against women and children.

Given the concerns highlighted by the United Nations and the Organization of American States about the present situation in Colombia, we believe a review of Canadian military goods exported to Colombia is needed.


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