Hon. Sidney E. Smith (Secretary of State for External Affairs):
Mr. Speaker, on Thursday, November 14, before I came into the house, the hon. member for Algoma East (Mr. Pearson) addressed this question to the Prime Minister:
May I ask the Prime Minister whether consideration has been given by the government to the removal of the prohibition on the export of defence equipment from Canada to Israel, and if so, what is the result of the consideration?
In reply to that question the Prime Minister on November 14 said:
I think it-
That is the question.
-is of sufficient moment to demand a rather complete reply, and it will be given in due course.
I now give this answer to the question. Mr. Speaker, as the hon. member knows, the export of defence equipment to Israel is only one facet of the broader question of arms export in general, which is under constant
Inquiries of the Ministry consideration and continuous review. The role of the Canadian government in this matter is to receive applications for export permits and to deal with each on its merits.
As regards applications relating to the area in the Middle East in which hostilities occurred last year, there are two governing considerations. First, the United Nations in its resolution of November 2, 1956, recommended, in the light of the military action then taking place in the Middle East, that member states-and I now quote-"refrain from introducing military goods in the area of hostilities". This United Nations recommendation lent international authority to the decision which had already been taken on a national basis by the Canadian government of the time to withhold permission to export to the area any significant military equipment.
It is our view today that developments since the inception of that policy have not been such as to warrant the government in adopting a new policy. We intend therefore to continue to act in conformity with the spirit of the United Nations resolution unless circumstances should dictate a change.
Then there is a second factor which must be kept in mind. In view of the obligations Canada has undertaken through its participation in the United Nations emergency force now stationed on the Egyptian-Israeli frontier, the government is bound to avoid any action which would render more difficult the peacekeeping function of that force or increase the risk of hostilities which might involve its Canadian members. The government is satisfied at the present time that the policy I have described here is the best one and the one that is most conducive toward these objectives.
I would add, Mr. Speaker, that since the decision taken by the government at the end of October, 1956, there have been no shipments of military equipment to Israel. At the time of that decision, permits that had been issued and were still valid were suspended, and no new permits have since been issued.
Topic: EXTERNAL AFFAIRS
Subtopic: STATEMENT ON REMOVAL OF ARMS