Students join discussion on arms treaty

With the second round of negotiations on the United Nations Arms Trade Treaty to be held in New York on March 18, students at McMaster are joining the mission to spread awareness about the issue.

The December shooting in Connecticut reignited the gun control debate in the United States and abroad. Months before this shooting, diplomats from Canada and other nations had attended a global conference held in New York under the auspice of the United Nations to discuss the draft version of the first international multilateral treaty on the regulation of conventional arms trade.

But the July conference ended inconclusively after the United States and several other countries, such as China and Russia, requested more time to look into the treaty. Talks are scheduled to reconvene from March 18-28.

The Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) will be an international regulation on the export, import and transfer of conventional arms. The United Nations is also working on reinforcing the Program of Action on Small Arms and Light Weapons.

Most conflicts in the world are done with conventional weapons, and most of these weapons are produced in Western countries. As of now, there is no international regulation in place on conventional arms trade, which is estimated at $70 billion. The United States is the world’s biggest arms trader, accounting for 40 per cent of transfers of conventional arms.

Canada supports the inclusion of small arms, light weapons and ammunition within the ATT, so long as it is consistent with the principle of national discretion.

Domestically, the Conservative government discontinued the registry early last year on the grounds that it is costly and inefficient.

The Canadian Conservative government has played a minimal role in treaty negotiations, with its major priority being the interest of law-abiding Canadian gun owners. In 2011, Canada proposed to exclude hunting rifles and “civilian” arms from the treaty, retracting the proposition only after stern criticisms from other nations.

Dr. Andrew Lui, a professor on international politics at McMaster University, describes Canada’s position on the treaty as difficult. Canada is isolated in regards to its stance on international Issues, such as with the recent withdrawal from the Kyoto Protocol.

“[The Canadian government] is led by pragmatism than principle,” explained Dr. Nibaldo Galleguillos, a professor in comparative politics at Mac.

In recent years, the country has backed away from its peacekeeping reputation. Canada has rarely been a leader, and has often abstained or followed other nations when it comes to international human rights and humanitarian causes.

The execution of small arms control is complex.

“UN agreements are not enforceable,” said Galleguillos. “The question is, to what degree is [the treaty] effective when it is not supported by the superpowers.”

On campus, War Child at Mac, an MSU-recognized humanitarian club concerned with child soldiers in war-conflicted countries, is launching a video to spread awareness on the importance of the Arms Trade Treaty.

War Child Canada, a non-governmental organization followed by War Child at Mac, is in coalition with Control Arms, an ATT-advocacy group campaigning for a more bulletproof treaty. March 11-17 marks the global week of action for Arms Trade Treaty. War Child at Mac will be running an information booth in MUSC this Friday, March 15, to spread awareness of the Arms Trade Treaty.

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Author: Karen Wang

Karen Wang is a fourth year Arts & Science student majoring in always being precisely five minutes late. When she is not wielding the illustrator wand, she can be found taking a nap at My Dog Joe or complaining about the food on campus to anyone who will listen.