The Control Arms Campaign, led by the three agencies, seeks to collect images of thousands of Canadians, which will be presented as a photo petition to Foreign Minister Peter MacKay ahead of a UN summit to set global guidelines for arms transfers.
"The countries we work in overseas are awash in weapons," said Robert Fox, executive director of Oxfam Canada. "Astoundingly, there are no international rules to keep small arms from falling into the hands of criminals or abusive governments."
More than 600 million small arms (from handguns to AK-47 assault rifles to shoulder-fired missiles) are in circulation worldwide, the agencies said. These weapons can spark, fuel and prolong conflict, divert money from health and education, exacerbate human rights abuses and foster a culture of violence.
"Governments continue to transfer weapons and ammunition to countries with records of gross human rights abuses, and insufficient national arms control laws make easy work for global gun-runners," said Alex Neve, secretary general of Amnesty International. "Many weapons traded legally end up in illicit markets with dire consequences."
The UN World Summit on Small Arms and Light Weapons, to be held for the next 100 days, seeks to reduce the proliferation and misuse of these weapons around the world. The agencies are asking Canada to take leadership at the UN.
"In today’s conflicts and in areas where urban violence is rife, small arms and light weapons do the most damage," said John Siebert, executive director of Project Ploughshares. "Unless real progress is made at the June summit, hundreds of thousands of people stand to lose their lives."
At public venues in St. John’s, Halifax, Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto, Edmonton and Vancouver, volunteers asked the public to join the "Million-Faces Petition," a global online effort to demonstrate public support for reining in the arms trade. Besides photographs, volunteer artists are sketching faces for uploading to the petition on www.controlarms.org.
For more information, visit www.controlarms.org or contact:
- Mark Fried, Oxfam Canada, 613-850-9723
- Ken Epps, Project Ploughshares 519-888-6541 ext 701
- John Tackaberry, Amnesty International Canada 613-744-7667, ext. 236