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This article was published 2/7/2009 (4107 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
WINNIPEG — MANITOBA exported a cache of guns worth $1.2 million to Saudi Arabia last year, but Ottawa won't say who sold them, who bought them or for what they were used.
According to international trade data available on the Industry Canada website, Manitoba exported a total of $3.1 million in "arms and ammunition" to foreign countries last year. That could include anything from flame-throwers to shotgun cartridges to rocket-launchers, and it's double what the province exported in 2004.
Saudi Arabia, the Middle Eastern kingdom frequently criticized for its oppression of women, religious minorities and political dissidents, made a surprise appearance on Manitoba's 2008 export list.
That country was the biggest buyer of Manitoba arms and ammunition.
More data provided by Statistics Canada suggest the goods included 110 rifles meant for sport hunting or target shooting.
Except for Manitoba's guns, Canada sold virtually no other weapons or ammunition to Saudi Arabia last year. Ontario was the next biggest exporter of arms to Saudi Arabia at only $61,000.
The data baffled local peace groups like the Mennonite Central Committee and raises more questions than Ottawa was willing to answer.
To export weapons -- even one gun to a private hunter in the United States -- requires an export permit from the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade (DFAIT). Getting a permit is a process one local vendor called such a "humungous hassle" that virtually no Manitoba retailers bother.
DFAIT won't reveal any information about the permit issued to export 110 guns to Saudi Arabia, saying the buyer and seller are confidential.
"Details of export transactions are protected due to the commercially confidential nature of such information and restrictions under the Privacy Act," said Laura Dalby, spokeswoman for International Trade.
"This information is confidential and may only be released with the written permission of the originator of the information."
Ottawa did confirm it wasn't the Canadian military or another federal department that exported the guns.
All of Manitoba's major gun retailers, including Wholesale Sports and Cabela's, both of Winnipeg, and Wolverine Supplies in Virden, said they have made no sales to a Saudi customer recently.
Staff from PGW Defence Technologies Inc., a Winnipeg-based manufacturer of military-grade sniper weapons systems, could not be reached for comment.
According to public documents, PGW sold the Canadian military $4.5 million in sniper rifles in 2005.
At an average cost of $10,000 a gun, the rifles sold to Saudi Arabia would be extremely high-end. Most hunting rifles retail for less than $1,000.
Last year, the province exported $3.1 million in "arms and ammunition," the product code Industry Canada uses to lump everything from swords to missiles together. In 2004, Manitoba exported just $1.6 million worth. Here's where the weapons went last year and a general description of what they were.
Saudi Arabia -- $1,257,691 for sporting, hunting or target shooting rifles.
Botswana -- $861,988 for munitions of war, ammunitions and projectiles and parts.
U.K. -- $408,717 for firearm parts and accessories.
Belgium -- $318,791 for artillery weapons like guns, howitzers and mortars as well as parts and accessories.
U.S. -- $306,807 for sporting or hunting rifles, cartridges, rifle and/or shotgun parts and/or accessories as well as swords, cutlasses, bayonets, lances or similar arms.
Sweden -- $11,825 for swords, cutlasses, bayonets, lances or similar arms.
Norway -- $9,000 for sporting hunting or target rifles.
Spain -- $5,411 for swords, cutlasses, bayonets, lances or similar arms.
Australia -- $5,308 for parts and accessories of military weapons.
Oman -- $271 for firearm parts and accessories.
-- Source: Industry Canada Trade Data Online and Statistics Canada's International Trade Division
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