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Canadian Arms and Yemen




Armed Conflict in Yemen

Recipient State

Saudi Arabia



Litigation in Canada has sought to halt the export of arms and military goods to Saudi Arabia due to the increasingly clear and compelling evidence of their involvement in the commission of

and violations in Yemen. This is one of the more complex and advanced legal challenges to date, with the same licensing decision being subject to judicial review on several occasions and appealed to the highest court – the Supreme Court of Canada.

The matter first entered the courts in 2016, with a second judicial review proceeding launched in 2017, both calling for the annulment of the same six licences issued for the export of light armoured vehicles to Saudi Arabia in 2016. These proceedings have now come to an end after the Supreme Court dismissed it on its merits. 

Latest developments

Case Analysis

Proceedings in Canada have taken a concerted approach and sought to challenge specific licences granted by the Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs for arms exports to Saudi Arabia that risk being involved in internal repression and the armed conflict in Yemen.

It is notable that the Canadian administrative courts have not scrutinised the merits of the decision to issue licences for export of arms and other military goods to Saudi Arabia. Rather, discussion and analysis has focused on the exercise of discretionary powers by government authorities – namely the latitude available to government ministers with respect to licensing decision-making.

Of greatest concern, the Canadian Courts have taken a very narrow and restrictive approach to the scope of the risk assessment that must be undertaken prior to issuing a licence, and placed a worrying degree of discretion in the hands of the Minister to decide whether to grant a licence for the export of arms and other military goods.

The Canadian Courts have maintained that to establish the risk that the exported arms would be used for serious violations of international law (IHL/ IHRL), there must be evidence of the actual use of specific Canadian-manufactured arms in the commission of these violations. This is clearly contrary to international legal standards, which largely focus on the “risk” of arms being used in an unlawful manner taking into account factors such as the end user’s conduct, including but not limited to their use of the contested goods, and the general attitude of the buyer state towards international law, rather than explicitly requiring evidence of actual use.

Arms export controls in Canada are regulated at the national level under the Export and Import Permits Act. Guidance on the Minister of Foreign Affairs’ decision-making process is contained in the Export and Brokering Controls Handbook. Of particular relevance to the first judicial review proceedings, the Geneva Conventions are applicable in Canadian law by virtue of the Geneva Conventions Act 1985. The competence to grant licences for the export of military goods is vested in the Minister of Foreign Affairs.

For a more detailed overview of the Canadian framework, see the Canadian government’s breakdown of its national control system here.

These claims have been brought by an individual – Professor Daniel Turp of the University of Montreal. The claimant was represented by Me André Lespérance and Me Anne-Julie Asselin of the firm Trudel Johnston & Lespérance.

To get in touch with the claimants and their legal representatives, please see here.



 Through Court proceedings, the claimants were granted access to a Memorandum of Information that provided some clarity on the reasoning for the government’s licencing decisions.

Read more about the issue of transparency in other jurisdictions

The claimant has been able to bring a case against the government based on domestic law, however has been denied standing to raise the argument of a violation of Common Article 1 of the Geneva Conventions before Canadian administrative courts.

Read more about standing across all cases

The merits of licensing decisions have not been scrutinised in detail by the courts in any of the challenges to date. The court has instead focused on whether the government properly exercised discretion and took all relevant factors required by law into consideration.

Read more about the issue of justiciability in other jurisdictions

Canada became a State Party to the ATT in 2019, at which point it updated national legislation to directly incorporate the ATT assessment criteria into national law, and bring itself in line with its ATT obligations. However, at the time of proceedings, Canada was not a state party to the ATT. 

Read more about the applicability of the ATT and the EU Common Position across the challenges

The misuse of Canadian-manufactured equipment has been considered by the Courts as justiciable and could give rise to a form of remedy. The misuse of similar non-Canadian manufactured equipment is treated as non-justiciable.

Read more about whether claimants have been granted remedy in other jurisdictions


Two claims have been brought in the Canadian courts. Click ‘explore case’ to find out about each case in more detail and access all case documents.

Case status


First Application for Judicial Review against the Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs

Explore case

This case sought to judicially review a decision to grant several licences for the export of military goods to Saudi Arabia that was argued to be unlawful  due to Saudi Arabia’s involvement in Yemen and the extent of human rights violations against its own population. The claim went through several levels of the appeals process in Canada but came to an end after an application for leave to appeal at the Supreme Court was dismissed in April 2019.


Second Application for Judicial Review against the Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs

Explore case

This case sought to challenge the refusal of the Minister of Foreign Affairs not to cancel the same 2016 licences for the export of LAVs to Saudi Arabia contested in the previous proceedings. This case was initiated after new evidence, which indicated that Canadian-manufactured LAVs had been used by Saudi Arabia to commit war crimes in Yemen did not lead to any revocation of the contested licences. This claim was discontinued after the Supreme Court dismissal in Turp I.



23 Apr 2019

Challenge 2

Claim discontinued in light of the Supreme Court’s dismissal of the application for leave to appeal of Challenge 1.

11 Apr 2019

Challenge 1

Supreme Court dismisses application for leave to appeal.

Read the case docket here

27 Sep 2018

Challenge 1

Claimant submits an application for leave to appeal the judgement of the Federal Court of Appeal before the Supreme Court of Canada.

06 Jul 2018

Challenge 1

Judgement issued. Appeal dismissed on all grounds.

Read the appeal judgement here

09 Jan 2018

Challenge 2

Court dismisses minister’s request. The Federal Court conclusion that, based on the new evidence provided, it should reassess the reasonableness of the Minister’s decision at a hearing.

18 Oct 2017

Challenge 2

Minister response. The Minister submits a request to strike the application down.

27 Sep 2017

Challenge 2

Case enters the courts. Absent any response from the Minister, the Claimant submits an application for judicial review at the Federal Court.

03 Aug 2017

Challenge 2

Claimant sends a letter to the Minister of Foreign Affairs highlighting new evidence of the use of Canadian arms in the commission of serious IHL violations by Saudi Arabia in Yemen.

17 Feb 2017

Challenge 1

Appeal submitted to the Court of Appeal.

24 Jan 2017

Challenge 1

Judgement issued. Claim dismissed on all grounds.

Read the judgement here

21 Apr 2016

Challenge 1

Claimant amends application for judicial review after becoming aware of the licensing decision of 08.04.2016.

08 Apr 2016

Challenge 1

Six licences issued for the export of light armoured vehicles (LAVs) by GDLS-C to Saudi Arabia.

21 Mar 2016

Challenge 1

Daniel Turp files an application for judicial review of a prospective decision to grant licences for the export of arms and military goods to Saudi Arabia.

Read the application for judicial review here


01 June 2022

Canada's arms sales to Saudi Arabia jumped in 2021, government report says

Middle East Eye

This article reflects on new information released by the Canadian government that indicates there has been an increase in military exports to Saudi Arabia, who are also found to be Canada’s second largest purchaser of military equipment after the United States.

30 April 2018

Canada’s dual role in Yemen: Arms exports to Saudi Coalition dwarf aid sent to war-torn country

Brendan Kennedy and Michelle Shephard | Toronto Star

This article considers the broader context of arms sales by Canada to countries involved in the conflict in Yemen, in particular Saudi Arabia, by analysing its export statistics and reporting.

19 January 2018

Comment: Canada's Trade-off between Arms and Human Rights

James Hendry | Philippe Kirsch Institute Global Justice Journal

This article provides a comprehensive and detailed overview of the first two challenges launched by Professor Daniel Turp in 2016 and 2018 respectively, with particular focus on the evidence which came to light between the first and second challenge.

Contact & More Information

If you would like to know more about this case, please get in touch with our primary contact Professor Daniel Turp by email

Find out more about the work of the claimants at their website:

Trudel Johnston & Lespérance