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CANSEC Convention

How Canadian Arms Exports are Fueling Conflicts and Endangering Civilians

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Accusations that Canada's political and economic elite are involved in provoking and fuelling international military conflicts are nothing new. Renewing this claim, an annual gathering of protestors from different groups met outside CANSEC, an arms industry convention in Ottawa, on May 31 and June 1. According to them, the Canadian arms industry is toying with human life.

"In it's official statements, the Canadian government purports to be a defender of peace and sells a land of dream to immigrants... but nothing could be farther from the truth" said Viviana, a member of the International Migrants Alliance, in a speech on the protests lines outside the conference. "The Canadian arms industry and the Canadian state, she says, are enthusiastic contributors to wars, expropriations and forced displacements the world over—notably through the sale of arms and through the mining giants registered in Canada."

According to a 2022 Global Affairs Canada (GAC) report on military exports, it is estimated that Canada saw over $7.7B worth of controlled military goods exported worldwide in 2021, with the United States as its main partner. Of this amount, an enormous $1.7B worth of arms and components were exported to active conflict zones across the Middle East—most notably in Israel and Saudi Arabia. The latter is Canada's biggest weapons buyer after the USA.

Although there was significant public backlash in 2018 when it was revealed that Canada was materially aiding Saudi Arabia's war of aggression in Yemen, calls to halt weapons sales have until now been ignored. Despite the backlash, and despite Canada's ratification of the UN's Arms Trade Treaty, the Canadian government continues to ship arms to one of the world's most oppressive states.

Trudeau's Liberal government continues to uphold the Harper government's 2014 $15B arms deal that the Canadian Commercial Corporation (a Crown Corporation) assisted in securing between US-based General Dynamics and Saudi Arabia. General Dynamics' Canadian-made Light Armored Vehicles, as well as many Canadian-made small and medium arms were being used as late as April 2022 when a generalized cease fire was called in the war in Yemen.

The war in Yemen has seen hundreds of thousands of civilians killed, including 110,000 children. Despite the cease fire, the devastating US-backed Saudi blockade of Yemen's coasts persists, as do western arm shipments into Saudi Arabia. 

Canada is also profiting from the trade of explosives which are being used to decimate entire city blocks in Palestine. According to the same GAC report, some $26M worth of Canadian military exports, mostly explosives and their components, are being used by Israel in its continued genocidal aggression and annexation of occupied Palestinian territories.

The Israeli state conducts frequent bombings of civilian neighborhoods. The killing of civilians was a main issue being denounced by the protest. Indeed, civilian killings by Israeli military operations are part of the difficult daily lives of Palestinians. Most recently, Israel sent a "precision-guided missile" into a 6-floor apartment building in Gaza, targeting the leader of an armed resistance group. Of the 6 people killed, 5 were civilians—three of whom were children.

Israeli officials told The New York Times that they had postponed the strike three times to ensure minimizing civilian casualties. They did not comment further on why, despite their supposed care for civilian lives, they struck when the Koshwan family was in the building. The precision-guided ordnance used is the same type being showcased at CANSEC by firms like Lockheed-Martin and Raytheon (among others).

Many parts for these types of ordonances are being manufactured in Canada on behalf of these major multinational arms manufacturers and exported for use in the continued systematic bombing of civilians in Gaza. One protestor from the Palestinian Youth Movement drew North Star's attention to Elbit Systems, which "tests their weapons on Palestinians and then market them as 'field-tested' at CANSEC." And yet, Israel still benefits from privileged access to Western and Canadian weapons and diplomatic relations.

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