VICTORIA, British Columbia — The association representing Canadian defense firms says it is in the dark about the status of equipment exports to Israel after the House of Commons voted to end military sales to that nation.

The legislative body passed a motion March 18 to halt arms exports to Israel because of ongoing human rights concerns over the nation’s military operations in Gaza.

But government ministers have stated the motion will only temporarily pause exports and that some existing equipment sales are proceeding.

The result is confusion among defense firms that are seeking clarification.

Christyn Cianfarani, president of the Canadian Association of Defence and Security Industries, pointed out that the Canadian government strictly regulates what, where, when and how companies can export controlled goods.

“For companies to be able to comply with changes to those rules, they need to know what the changes are,” Cianfarani wrote in a March 25 email to Defense News. “The government has a responsibility to quickly publish the exact details of any changes to its policy surrounding exports, and that hasn’t happened yet.”

After the motion passed, Defence Minister Bill Blair told reporters that the issuing of export permits for military shipments to Israel has been temporarily put on hold. He did not indicate when that might be lifted.

Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly told journalists that the Canadian government stopped approving permits Jan. 8 because of human rights concerns resulting from Israel’s invasion of Gaza.

But later, on March 20, Reuters reported Joly’s office sent a statement acknowledging that companies with existing military export permits to Israel can continue with their deliveries.

A senior official with the government’s Global Affairs Canada told the Senate’s foreign affairs panel March 20 that it remains unclear how the motion will affect defense exports to Israel. Global Affairs Canada is responsible for overseeing defense export permits.

“These are things that are being refined,” Alexandre Lévêque, assistant deputy minister for Europe, the Arctic, the Middle East and the Maghreb, told lawmakers, noting that the government wants to “limit any exports that go into arms [and] weapons that could be used directly in the conflict” in Gaza.

He did not specifically detail how the government intends to determine whether a specific part or piece of equipment is used in the Israel-Hamas war.

Israel leads a Canadian government ranking of the top 12 non-U.S. destinations that require export permits for military goods and technology. The number of permits issued in 2022 for movement of such goods to Israel was 315, according to the Canadian government. And that year, Canada exported about CA$21 million (U.S. $15 million) worth of defense-related products to Israel.

Israel condemned the motion passed in the House of Commons. “It’s regrettable that the Canadian government is taking a step that undermines Israel’s right to self-defense against Hamas terrorists,” Foreign Minister Israel Katz tweeted.

Project Ploughshares, a Canadian think tank focused on disarmament and international security, issued a statement March 21 that expressed disappointment that the new policy does not apply to export permits already issued and “which Global Affairs Canada has the full authority to revoke.”

It also noted the House of Commons motion failed to address Canada’s transfer of military end-use parts and components to Israel via the United States.

News website The Maple reported Feb. 10 that Canadian government figures show domestic firms sent to Israel CA$28.5 million in military goods during the first two months of the war in Gaza, which began in October. Those exports included engines for drones; electronic systems and aircraft components; and fire control equipment, according to The Maple, which obtained the data using the federal government’s Access to Information Act.

David Pugliese is the Canada correspondent for Defense News.

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