Open Letter: Civil society coalition urges Canada to stop arms transfers to Israel

February 8, 2024

February 5th, 2024

The Honourable Mélanie Joly, P.C., M.P.,
Minister of Foreign Affairs,
Global Affairs Canada,
125 Sussex Drive,
Ottawa, ON
K1A 0G2

Dear Minister Joly,

We, the undersigned civil society organizations, have profound concerns about the legal and humanitarian implications of Canada’s transfer of weapon systems to the government of Israel. These concerns have only been amplified following the January 26th provisional ruling by the International Court of Justice (ICJ).

Since the onset of Israel’s response to the Hamas-led October 7 attacks, nearly 30,000 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza, the majority civilians, including over 12,000 children. Large parts of the Gaza Strip have suffered wholesale devastation, including the widespread destruction of homes, schools, hospitals, refugee camps and critical civilian infrastructure. Experts have concluded that Israel’s bombing campaign is now amongst the “deadliest and most destructive in recent history.”

According to annual datasets published by Global Affairs Canada, over the last decade, Canada has exported morethan $140-million (constant CAD) in military goods to Israel, including military aerospace components as well as bombs, missiles, explosives and associated parts. There is substantial concern that some of these weapons could be enabling Israel’s operation in Gaza. In addition to direct exports, Canadian-produced technology has also been supplied to Israel by first being integrated into US-produced systems, including components incorporated into the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, which Israel has used in its bombing campaign across Gaza.

Credible human rights monitors, including UN officials, have routinely alleged that Israel has violated international humanitarian and human rights law throughout its operation. UN Secretary-General António Guterres has likened the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Gaza to the “collective punishment of the Palestinian people.” Given Israel’s conduct during its ongoing military operation in Gaza, there is clear and substantial risk that Canadian arms transfers may be used to commit serious violations of international humanitarian law or international human rights law in the conflict. As per Canada’s obligations under the Export and Import Permits Act and the Arms Trade Treaty, Canadian officials are therefore required to halt arms transfers and deny further arms export and brokering authorizations to Israel.

The January 26th provisional ruling by the ICJ deemed that at least some of South Africa’s allegations of violationsof rights of Palestinians under the Genocide Convention are “plausible.” This is a further reason for Canada to halt arms transfers to Israel. All parties to the Genocide Convention, including Canada, have duties to ensure the prevention and non-complicity in one of the most serious internationally wrongful acts. Countries that transfer arms to another country that are likely to be used in the commission of war crimes, crimes against humanity or genocide risk being complicit in those crimes.

In December, the government of Canada joined an overwhelming majority of UN member states in calling for a ceasefire. Civil society welcomed such a call. Now, towards this effort of ending the grave abuses taking place onthe ground, Canada must meet its domestic and international obligations by halting the supply of weapon systems to Israel.

In recent years, Canadian officials have taken the proactive step to presumptively deny the issuance of arms exportand brokering permits to certain countries when there was a substantial risk those weapons would be misused—including, at times, to Türkiye, Belarus, and Russia. Dozens more individual arms export permits have been denied since Canada’s accession to the ATT due to the risks posed by their proposed export. Given the wholesale destruction in Gaza and the deaths of thousands of Palestinian civilians, there is no reason a similar policy cannot or should not be implemented in regards to Israel.

This call echoes that of leading Canadian and global humanitarian organizations urging for a cessation of arms transfers to Israel and Palestinian armed groups in order to protect civilians and allow Gaza’s only remaining lifeline, an internationally funded humanitarian aid response, to reach the 2.3 million in need.

Minister, we welcome Canada’s announced strong support for the “critical role” of the ICJ and commitment to abide by its rulings in the genocide case brought by South Africa against Israel. However, the government of Canada cannot at the same time signal support for the ICJ, and adherence to its rulings, while continuing to arm those whomthe ICJ has ruled are plausibly accused of genocide. We therefore urge immediate action on the part of your government by halting further arms exports, alongside export and brokering authorizations, to Israel.

Signatory organizations:

Above Ground, a project of MakeWay
Action Canada for Sexual Health and Rights
Amnesty International Canadian Section (English-speaking)
Amnistie internationale Canada francophone
Anglican Church of Canada
Canadian Boat to Gaza
Canadian Council of Muslim Women
Canadian Friends of Sabeel
Canadian Friends Service Committee
Canadian Memorial United Church
Canadian Muslim Public Affairs Council (CMPAC)
Canadian Pugwash Group
Canadian Voice of Women for Peace
Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East (CJPME)
CJPME Saskatoon Chapter
Conscience Canada
Development and Peace – Caritas Canada
Doctors of the World Canada / Médecins du Monde Canada
Doctors for Planetary Health – West Coast
Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada
Faculty for Palestine Wilfrid Laurier University
Human Concern International
Human Rights Watch
Humanity & Inclusion Canada
Independent Jewish Voices Canada
Islamic Relief Canada
Just Peace Advocates
KAIROS: Canadian Ecumenical Justice Initiatives
Labour Against the Arms Trade
London Chapter, Council of Canadians
Mennonite Central Committee Canada
Mennonite Church Canada Palestine-Israel Network
Nelson Poetry Slam
New Brunswick Coalition for Pay Equity
Ontario Palestinian Rights Association
Oxfam Canada
Palestinian and Jewish Unity (PAJU)
Pax Christi Toronto
Peace Brigades International – Canada
Peace Philosophy Centre
People for Peace, London
Ploughshares Calgary Society
Primate’s World Relief and Development Fund
Project Ploughshares
Regina Peace Council
Rideau Institute on International Affairs
Right On Canada
Rights Action
Save the Children Canada
Science for Peace
Seventh Generation Initiative
Social Rights Advocacy Centre
The United Church of Canada
United Network for Justice and Peace in Palestine and Israel (UNJPPI)
Victoria Peace Coalition
WILPF Canada
Women’s Centre for Social Justice
World BEYOND War Canada
World Federalist Movement – Canada
World Federalist Movement – Toronto Branch

Matthew 10:40-42


40 “Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. 41 Whoever welcomes a prophet in the name of a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward, and whoever welcomes a righteous person in the name of a righteous person will receive the reward of the righteous, 42 and whoever gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones in the name of a disciple—truly I tell you, none of these will lose their reward.”

John 15:12-17

12 “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13 No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command you. 15 I do not call you servants any longer, because the servant does not know what the master is doing, but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father. 16 You did not choose me, but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask him in my name. 17 I am giving you these commands so that you may love one another.

John 21:15-19

Jesus and Peter

15 When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my lambs.” 16 A second time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Tend my sheep.” 17 He said to him the third time, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter felt hurt because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” And he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep. 18 Very truly, I tell you, when you were younger, you used to fasten your own belt and to go wherever you wished. But when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will fasten a belt around you and take you where you do not wish to go.” 19 (He said this to indicate the kind of death by which he would glorify God.) After this he said to him, “Follow me.”

Luke 11:33-36

The Light of the Body

33 “No one after lighting a lamp puts it in a cellar or under a bushel basket; rather, one puts it on the lampstand so that those who enter may see the light. 34 Your eye is the lamp of your body. If your eye is healthy, your whole body is full of light, but if it is unhealthy, your body is full of darkness. 35 Therefore consider whether the light in you is not darkness. 36 But if your whole body is full of light, with no part of it in darkness, it will be as full of light as when a lamp gives you light with its rays.”

Matthew 8:1-4

Jesus Cleanses a Man

8 When Jesus had come down from the mountain, great crowds followed him, and there was a man with a skin disease who came to him and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.” He stretched out his hand and touched him, saying, “I am willing. Be made clean!” Immediately his skin disease was cleansed. Then Jesus said to him, “See that you say nothing to anyone, but go, show yourself to the priest, and offer the gift that Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.”