Canada to suspend arms sales to Israel, following ICJP-Canada legal notice

London, 21st March: Following a notice served by ICJP-Canada threatening legal action, the Canadian government has vowed to end arms sales to Israel. The announcement came after a non-binding vote passed the House of Commons on a New Democratic Party (NDP) motion.

The vote and subsequent decision came just one week after the Canadian government was served notice of intention to commence legal proceedings for its failure to prevent genocide in Gaza, and for violations of the Charter rights of Palestinian-Canadians in Gaza or with family in Gaza. The government was given a deadline of April 3rd to end its complicity in genocide, before legal proceedings would commence.

 The letter was filed by the Coalition for Canadian Accountability in Gaza, a coalition of lawyers and rights groups which includes ICJP-Canada. The letter explicitly cited continued exports of arms as one factor in Canada’s complicity in Israel’s genocide.

Canada has consistently been a regular exporter of armaments to Israel, sending CAN$21m in 2022, and CAN$26m in 2021. However, shipments had increased since October 2023, with the government authorising CAN$28.5m of new export permits in the first two months of Israel’s genocide, including CAN$1.7m of munitions.

The motion had been watered down, previously also including a unilateral recognition of Palestinian statehood. However, the motion’s passing has at the very least promoted a conclusive statement of action from the Ottawa government, which had until now initially ‘paused’ export permits while assessing applications on a ‘case-by-case basis’.

Whilst the decision to halt arms exports is welcome, it is important to note that as a non-binding vote, the government is not obliged to take any action at all. Furthermore, the denial of future permit applications is welcome, but it is unknown what is happening with permits already awaiting approval.

The Canadian government must also provide explicit guidance as to the definition of ‘arms’, ensuring that it is compatible with the UN’s Arms Trade Treaty and Canda’s relevant legislative framework. The government must not leave loopholes open to allow the export of military technology including microchips, used in drones and aircraft.    

There are also a number of outstanding issues, which the Coalition for Canadian Accountability in Gaza say amount to complicity in genocide. These include: the procurement of arms from Israel, not only exports to; the presence of Canadian Special Forces within Israel; the continuation of the Canada-Israel Strategic Partnership; and the lack of warning or punishment for Canadians serving in the Israeli military. 

ICJP-Canada remains committed to campaigning on these areas to ensure that the Canadian government ends its complicity in Israel’s genocide on Gaza.

ICJP–Canada lawyer Shane Martínez said:

‘We welcome yesterday’s announcement and the recognition, finally, that the Canadian government cannot plead ignorance about the outcomes of its support for Israel.

The suspension of arms exports is a necessary step – but not nearly enough. We will continue pursuing legal action until the government announces the cessation of all forms of its complicity – or until officials are held to account for their failure to do so.”


Notes to Editors:

  1. The Coalition for Canadian Accountability in Gaza is comprised of four firms & organisations-Legal Centre for PalestineInternational Centre of Justice for Palestinians Canada (ICJP-C); Hameed Law; andDimitri Lascaris Law Professional Corporation.
  2. International Centre of Justice for Palestinians, March 13th 2024, ‘Canadian government served notice that it has 21 days to end complicity in genocide in Gaza – issued on behalf of Canadians with family in Gaza’
  3. Cecco, L., March 19th 2024, ‘Canada to halt arms sales to Israel after non-binding vote in house of commons’, The Guardian 
  4. For media requests, please contact the Coalition for Canadian Accountability in Gaza at [email protected] or the International Centre of Justice for Palestinians (Canada) at [email protected].