OTTAWA -- Just one day before last month's elementary school massacre in Newtown, Conn., Canada offered its gun merchants "new market opportunities" to export banned assault weapons to Colombia, one of the world's most violent countries.
Canada quietly eased its ban on the export of assault-style weapons to Colombia after Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird recommended an order amending the Automatic Firearms Country Control List (AFCCL).
That opened the door for Canadian gun merchants to sell fully automatic weapons with high-capacity magazines -- banned in Canada -- to Colombia.
"Colombia's addition to the AFCCL opens new market opportunities by providing residents of Canada with the opportunity to explore and compete for contracts in Colombia for items controlled under the AFCCL," says a government notice, posted Tuesday.
The amended order places restrictions on the permits required for the weapons exports, including a case-by-case review by Ottawa.
The notice says Canadian weapons exporters will face "very strict controls" under the Export and Import Permits Act before they will be allowed to export "prohibited weapons and prohibited devices (as defined in the Criminal Code of Canada), examples of which include fully automatic firearms, electric stun guns and large-capacity magazines."
The change went into effect on Dec. 13, one day before a gunman walked into Sandy Hook Elementary School and killed 20 first-graders and six school employees, sparking fresh debate about gun control in the United States.
Canada recently completed a controversial free trade deal with Colombia, which has been plagued by a half-century-long guerilla insurgency, serious human rights abuses and its emergence as a world leading cocaine producer.
Colombia is gradually overcoming its violent legacy, becoming relatively more peaceful, while developing one of the fastest-growing economies in the Americas.
The Harper government's pursuit of a free trade deal with Colombia was opposed by rights groups, but the deal was ultimately approved in 2011.
Now, Colombia has been added to a list that includes Canada's 27 NATO allies, along with Australia, Finland, New Zealand, Saudi Arabia, Sweden and Botswana, where prohibited firearms manufactured in this country may be sold.
"The amendment to the AFCCL will formally add Colombia to the list of countries that the governor in council deems appropriate to export prohibited firearms, prohibited weapons and prohibited devices and to which the minister of foreign affairs may issue an export permit for such items," the notice says.
-- The Canadian Press