Canadian freeze on new arms export permits to Israel to stay

Canadian Foreign Minister Joly visits Kyiv

OTTAWA (Reuters) -Canada has not approved new arms export permits to Israel since Jan. 8 and the freeze will continue until Ottawa can ensure the weapons are used in accordance with Canadian law, the government said on Wednesday.

Export permits that were approved before Jan. 8 remain in effect, the office of Foreign Minister Melanie Joly said in an emailed statement.

The political survival of Canada's minority Liberal government depends on support from the left-leaning New Democrats, who are calling for a tougher line with Israel over the Gaza conflict.

"Canada has one of the most rigorous export permit regimes in the world. There are no open permits for exports of lethal goods to Israel," the statement said.

"Since January 8th, the government has not approved new arms export permits to Israel and this will continue until we can ensure full compliance with our export regime."

Canadian law bars the export of weapons if they could be used in "a serious violation of international humanitarian law" or "serious acts of violence against women and children". Ottawa must also consider whether the arms "would contribute to peace and security or undermine it".

Canada's parliament passed a non-binding motion on Monday on the Gaza conflict which called on the government to "cease the further authorization and transfer of arms exports to Israel".

The issue is causing divisions inside the Liberal Party caucus of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Three of his legislators voted against the motion and one of them said he was mulling his future inside the party.

"It's an issue that's emotional across the country ... and that is reflected in our discussions," said Steve MacKinnon, the government's chief whip.

Canada, a minor supplier of arms to Israel, last week said it had paused non-lethal military exports since January because of the rapidly evolving situation on the ground.

Earlier this month pro-Palestinian and human rights advocates filed a lawsuit to stop Ottawa allowing the export of military goods and technology to Israel.

Since the deadly Hamas attacks on Oct 7, Canada had authorized at least C$28.5 million ($21 million) worth of new permits, more than the value of such permits allowed in the previous year, they said.

($1 = 1.3587 Canadian dollars)

(Reporting by David Ljunggren in Ottawa; Editing by Andrew Cawthorne and Nia Williams)