New markets for Canadian arms?

April 7, 2022

Last month, Global Affairs Canada (GAC) announced that public consultations would be held on the proposed addition of Qatar and North Macedonia to Canada’s Automatic Firearms Country Control List (AFCCL). As was true with previous additions to the list, the impetus for this move appears to be the prospect of new export markets for Canadian-made weapons.


The Canadian government has regulated the sale and possession of automatic weapons since 1977. In 1991, it passed Bill C-6, which amended the Criminal Code and the Export and Import Permits Act (EIPA). One of its provisions was to create an arms control instrument unique to Canada: the Automatic Firearms Country Control List. The AFCCL allowed Canadian industry to export automatic firearms to a government-determined list of countries. Before Bill C-6, such exports would not have been permitted.

Earlier in 1991, General Motors (now General Dynamics Land Systems-Canada, or GDLS-C) had won a major contract to supply Canadian-made light armoured vehicles (LAVs) to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. However, the LAVs included large-calibre automatic weapons in their turrets. Without amendments to the EIPA, General Motors could not deliver on the contract.

The original AFCCL named 13 countries; 10 were fellow NATO members; one of the remaining three was Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia has since imported LAVs worth billions of dollars, making it one of Canada’s primary destinations for military exports.

Since the AFCCL’s inception in 1991, new countries have frequently been added to it around the time that large contracts to those countries were announced. For example, Colombia was added to the AFCCL in 2012, although it was not at the time a major importer of Canadian weapons. A short time later, it was announced that GDLS-C had secured a 65.3-million USD deal with Colombia for 24 LAVs. Soon after Peru was added to the AFCCL in 2014, GDLS-C announced a 67-million USD contract to provide Peru with 32 LAVs. A 2014 leaked Canadian government briefing note indicated that more countries were being added to provide Canadian arms manufacturers with “new market opportunities.”


North Macedonia

In March 2021, the U.S. Department of Defense announced that it had approved a Foreign Military Sale (FMS) to North Macedonia worth 210-million USD. The deal primarily consists of 54 Stryker LAVs. According to the Defense Security Cooperation Agency, the LAVs are to be produced by GDLS-C in London, Ontario. Deliveries of the LAVs are slated to begin in 2022.

The proposed LAV package to North Macedonia includes M2A1 .50 cal machine guns, which will likely be utilized on the turret of the vehicles.

North Macedonia has never been a major recipient of Canadian arms. Since it gained independence in 1991, it has received military goods valued at only $4,815 from Canada. However, in 2020, the small Balkan state became the newest member of NATO. And now it appears that North Macedonia offers new export opportunities for Canada. Its addition to the AFCCL seems assured.


In August 2021, Canada signed a Defence Cooperation Agreement with Qatar; until a 2019 amendment to the EIPA, such an agreement was required to add non-NATO members to the list. To date, no major contracts involving the export of Canadian-made military goods controlled under the AFCCL have been publicly announced.

Federal data indicates that, between 2010 and 2020, Canadian arms exports to Qatar varied significantly, from a low of 0 in 2011 and 2017 to a high of $20,091,794 in 2019.

Annual value of Canadian arms exports to new and proposed members of the AFCCL (2010-2020)

Value of goods shipped North Macedonia* Qatar* Austria Ireland Japan Switzerland
2010 $0 $32,218 $402,724 $1,218,834 $7,262,546 $4,194,575
2011 $1,524 $0 $2,842,488 $5,072 $8,003,366 $12,992,593
2012 $0 $1,329 $12,591,442 $9,528 $11,276,047 $5,573,287
2013 $1,449 $156,845 $92,937,435 $84,770 $9,617,572 $15,388,963
2014 $0 $580,147 $7,698,113 $343,406 $6,692,025 $28,829,883
2015 $0 $702,914 $554,267 $563,176 $14,702,673 $7,609,070
2016 $0 $1 $770,564 $38,602 $12,283,815 $12,694,091
2017 $609 $0 $391,187 $16,060 $17,579,081 $8,376,342
2018 $714 $5,428,830 $185,671 $19,963 $21,177,156 $16,552,969
2019 $0 $20,091,794 $1,092,535 $107,575 $36,039,485 $8,491,361
2020 $0 $11,011 $459,224.13 $17,173.16 $42,275,355.49 $8,741,842.40
2010-2020 $4,296 $27,005,089 $119,925,650 $2,424,159 $186,909,121 $129,444,976

The future of the AFCCL?

The AFCCL currently names 44 countries. Increasingly, it seems to operate as an easily scaled barrier to new export markets for the Canadian arms industry. Its continuous expansion can only diminish its utility as an arms control instrument.

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