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Weapon Sales Cause Many Civilian Deaths

CANSEC (security and weapons) Exhibition
Hon. David Kilgour
Lansdowne Park
June 1, 2011

Hearty congratulations to everyone associated with organizing this event in opposition to the arms exhibition here in Lansdowne Park, including the Coalition to end the arms trade (COAT) (, Physicians for Global Survival, the Raging Grannies, Diane McIntyre and Jason Bailey.

Green Party Leader and newly-elected MP Elizabeth May deserves special praise for her principled political stand. Permit me to congratulate her publicly as well for calling for the cancellation of an invitation-only event put on for two speakers representing the Tehran regime, held in Ottawa last winter.

Congratulations to Member of Council David Chernushenko.

Small Arms Worldwide

The growing traffic in small arms has been a major factor in the increase in the number of conflicts and in impeding rebuilding and development after conflicts end. It is estimated that today:

  • There are now approximately half a billion military small arms around the world;
  • Some 300,000 to half a million persons  are killed by them each year;
  • They are the major cause of civilian casualties in modern conflicts.

Small arms, by the way, include sub-machine guns, mortars, landmines, grenades and light missiles.

Professor Robert Neild of Cambridge University was blunt:

      “It has been estimated that there are now about 500 million small arms and light weapons in circulation in the world, one for every twelve people. Gone long ago is the time when we Europeans could subdue other continents because we had firearms and the local peoples had not. In 1999 it was reported that an AK-47 assault rifle could be bought in Uganda for the price of a chicken.”

Robert Neild, Public Corruption; The Dark Side of Social Evolution, (London: Anthem Press, 2002), p. 131

As the United Nations Department for Disarmament Affairs stresses, small arms:

  • Spark, fuel and prolong conflicts;
  • Obstruct relief programmes;
  • Undermine peace initiatives;
  • Exacerbate human rights abuses;
  • Hamper development; and
  • Foster a “culture of violence.”

 “The five permanent members of the UN Security Council—France, Russia, China, the UK, and the USA—together account for 88 per cent of the world’s conventional arms exports; and these exports contribute regularly to gross abuses of human rights.” a report from the control arms campaign, Shattered Lives, notes.

Robert Muggah, senior researcher at the Small Arms Survey, the principle international source of public information on all aspects of small arms, notes that the issue also involves a difference between the rich and poor. The NGO, ID21, summarized Muggah’s report thus:

  • People living in poor countries in Africa and the Americas are more than twice as likely to die a violent death as those living in rich European countries.
  • Many of these deaths are due to the misuse of small arms, the ownership of which has spread throughout poor communities as a result of war and the insecurities of poverty.
  • The spread of small arms is both an effect and a cause of underdevelopment and poverty.
    • Small arms misuse means that instead of making investments in improving their well-being and economic development, the already poor are burdened with the cost of nursing the injured and paying for informal forms of security such as vigilantism and para-militaries.
    • Yet much of the initiative to reduce and control small arms has been left to the poor communities themselves, with little help from international governments or agencies.

The challenges include:

  • Member states are still far from achieving global legal standards, which would help keep small arms away from human rights abusers.
  • Domestic laws and international policies are interdependent, and each country’s national laws affect the small arms proliferation problems of other countries.
  • The legal and the illegal markets for small arms are inter-related; many illicit transfers start out as legal ones; small arms are responsible for deaths and destruction whether they are technically held illegally or not.
  • The minimal requirement on governments to report to the UN on their small arms activities and efforts is woefully low and must be raised.

    In short, what all of us outside are doing is responsible and what at least some of those inside are doing is not.

Thank you.

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