The Trudeau government authorized at least $28.5 million of new permits for military exports to Israel during the first two months of the state’s brutal war on Gaza, data supplied to The Maple by Global Affairs Canada (GAC) shows.
The total value of the new permits authorized over a two-month period exceeds the 30-year annual record high of $26 million in Canadian military exports to Israel in 2021. The information provided by GAC does not indicate the time period for which the newly authorized permits are valid for, meaning not all the goods may have been exported in 2023.
Kelsey Gallagher, a researcher with the arms-monitoring group Project Ploughshares, told The Maple: “It’s not only troubling that Canadian officials have continued to authorize arms transfers since the onset of Israel’s operation, but also that the value of those transfers is in the tens of millions.”
“These combined values exceed that of total Canadian arms exports to Israel for any year on record.”
The newly issued permits include four worth a combined total of $1.7 million that authorize the sale of, among other items, goods under an export category that includes “bombs, torpedoes, rockets, missiles, other explosive devices and charges and related equipment and accessories, and specially designed components.”
GAC has repeatedly insisted that all of Canada’s military exports to Israel since October 7 have been for “non-lethal” goods, a term with no legal definition and that arms-monitoring experts say can refer to components of deadly weapons.
During the first two months of Israel’s war on Gaza, GAC issued permits worth a total of $18.4 million that covered military items categorized as “electronic equipment.”
A further $9.2 million worth of permits included “‘Aircraft’, ‘lighter-than-air vehicles’, ‘unmanned aerial vehicles’ [...] aero-engines and ‘aircraft’ equipment, related equipment, and components.” $859,000 worth of permits covered items that included “ground vehicles and components,” and $7.3 million worth of permits covered “fire control, and related alerting and warning equipment.”
The Maple excluded from the total values seven permits that appeared to be duplicates in GAC’s filings.
Nine of the 40 unique new permits authorized the sale of multiple types of goods, but GAC’s data does not provide a breakdown of the dollar value of each separate export category covered under permits that are valid for multiple types of goods.
The permits appear to have been authorized quickly, with one processed within four days of the application being submitted. In its 2022 report on military exports, GAC said that its target processing time was 10 days for “low-risk” destinations, and 40 days for other destinations. Israel was not listed as a “low-risk” destination in GAC’s most recent military exports report.
As previously reported, Canada’s export categories provide only broad strokes about the kinds of goods being exported and offer little information about the exact nature of the products. Precise information — including the names of the manufacturers — about the goods newly authorized for export to Israel were redacted by the ministry.
However, the dates on which some of the permits were issued indicate that GAC continued to authorize new military exports as recently as December 6, well into Israel’s brutal attack on Gaza and at a time when United Nations experts had warned there was a “grave risk of genocide” being committed by Israel.
To date, Israel’s bombing campaign has killed nearly 28,000 Palestinians, including at least 10,000 children, and caused a humanitarian catastrophe in the Gaza Strip. Following a case presented by South Africa accusing Israel of genocide, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) recently ordered that Israel must take steps to prevent acts of genocide as defined under the 1948 Genocide Convention. The court said that it is “plausible” that Israel’s acts amount to genocide.
Global Affairs Requested Delay
GAC called The Maple at 5:05 p.m. Eastern Standard Time on February 9 asking if The Maple would consent to GAC placing the request for military export data to Israel on hold for several weeks, purportedly due to delays caused by a cyber attack at the ministry in January. When this request was rebuffed by The Maple, GAC delivered the partially redacted data 25 minutes later.
The Maple asked GAC if it prepared the requested data in the space of 25 minutes, and whether there was any other reason it requested a weeks-long delay before releasing the data, but did not receive a response by publication time.
GAC also did not respond to additional questions and requests for comment about the newly authorized export permits — including whether it had revoked any of the permits since December — by publication time. This story will be updated if a response is provided.
Michael Bueckert, vice president of Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East (CJPME), called the military exports to Israel “absolutely scandalous.”
“It’s almost as if Canada is accelerating its arms export authorization process amid a genocidal campaign,” he said. “It’s alarming that some of the high-ticket items are things like components or goods related to bombs and explosives.”
Bueckert noted that the export permits for goods related to ground vehicles were authorized in late November, within a few weeks of Israel beginning its ground invasion of Gaza.
“This doesn’t seem like a coincidence to me,” he said.
Bueckert added that while the precise nature of the goods is unclear, there is a risk that the electronic equipment and goods related to aircraft could be incorporated into systems used in Israel’s airstrikes on Gaza.
Israel’s bombing campaign, he noted, “is the most destructive and deadly bombardment campaign of a civilian population, really, in modern history.”
Canadian ministers have been accused of deliberately sowing confusion about military exports to Israel by insisting that Canada has not authorized the sale of “full weapon systems” to Israel in more than 30 years. The vast majority of Canadian military exports to Israel are for component parts, including those potentially found in deadly military hardware.
Canada is a signatory to the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT), which is enshrined in the Export and Import Permits Act (EIPA). Under the EIPA, “the Minister of Foreign Affairs must deny exports and brokering permit applications for military goods and technology if there is a substantial risk that the items would undermine peace and security, or could be used to commit or facilitate serious violations of international humanitarian and human rights laws [or] serious acts of gender-based violence or serious acts of violence against women and children.”
On February 5, an open letter signed by Canadian civil society organizations urged Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly to stop arms exports to Israel, warning that “there is substantial concern that some of these weapons could be enabling Israel’s operation in Gaza.” In January, a coalition of legal advocates warned that it might bring a legal challenge against the federal government if it failed to halt military sales to Israel.
“Canadian officials have expressed concern at the humanitarian cost of Israel’s operation several times, and as recently as yesterday,” Gallagher said. “Are they not also concerned these military goods could be facilitating this operation?”
Besides direct military sales to Israel, human rights advocates have called on Canada to prevent military exports that are shipped to Israel via the United States, and to additionally retract all of the potentially hundreds of active export permits that were authorized before October 7.
A report published by the arms-monitoring group Project Ploughshares on January 18 warned that some Canadian-made components, including those found in F-35 fighter jets, are first shipped to the U.S. and then ultimately supplied to the Israeli military. Israel has used F-35s in its bombing of Gaza.
Alex Cosh is the news editor of The Maple.