Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland speaks to the media as she arrives for the first day of a cabinet retreat in London, Ontario on Thursday, Jan. 11, 2018.

Geoff Robins/The Canadian Press via AP
Canada to conduct human rights review before chopper sale to Philippines
Patricia Lourdes Viray ( - February 9, 2018 - 3:58pm

MANILA, Philippines — Canada's top diplomat has vowed to conduct an "extremely rigorous" human rights analysis of any potential export of military equipment to the Philippines.

During the debates at Canada's House of Commons on Wednesday, a few members of parliament raised concerns over military deals with the Philippines.

Hélène Laverdière, member of the Parliament of Canada, questioned the reported sale of combat helicopters to the Duterte administration, which she described as having a "terrible human rights record."

"How can the Liberal government justify selling these helicopters to the Philippine army when it knows that this regime could use them against civilians? What about our principles?" Laverdière told parliament.

Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland replied the Philippine government has not received any application for an export permit related to the deal.

"I will conduct an extremely rigorous human rights analysis of any potential export permit application related to this contract," Freeland said.

Randall Garrison, also a member of parliament, also noted that the deal with the Philippines would never be approved under the human rights standard required by the Arms Trade Treaty, an agreement that came into force in 2014 regulating the sales of conventional weapons.

The treaty binds state parties to make sure arms sales do not violate existing embargoes and that the weapons will not be used for human rights violations.

Neither Canada nor the Philippines are state parties to the treaty but voted in favor of it at the UN General Assembly vote in 2013.

Garrison noted that the Philippines is a country where "extrajudicial executions continue to be condoned by the president." The Philippine government has repeatedly explained away this assertion, saying the president merely uses colorful language or is simply expressing his frustration.

"Mr. Speaker, one of the cruel ironies of this helicopter deal is that Philippine President Duterte, who is unquestionably presiding over one of the world's worst human rights situations, once admitted to throwing a man out of a helicopter and said that he would do it again," Garrison said.

Freeland, however, stressed that she and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau have been very clear about their position on the Duterte administration's human rights violations and extrajudicial killings.

The Canadian foreign minister added that she has the authority to decline an export application if needed.

"I have the power to deny a permit if I feel it poses a risk to human rights, and I am prepared to do so," Freeland said.

Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said that the Philippine government can look other for sellers of military choppers if the Canadian government refuses to push through with the deal.

"If they don't want to sell, we may consider the prospect of procuring them from other sources," Roque said.

Trudeau, in his visit to Manila last year, said that he was concerned over human rights and extrajudicial killings in the Philippines. The Canadian leader said that he "impressed upon" Duterte the need to respect the rule of law in addressing the drug problem.

RELATED: Trudeau: I discussed human rights, EJKs in meeting with Duterte


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