Should antiwar forces challenge power or praise government officials in the hopes of getting some crumbs for their pet issue?
Douglas Roche’s recent Hill Times column suggests the latter. In an article extolling Canada’s new ambassador to the UN Roche writes: “When Canada lost its bid for a seat on the UN Security Council the second successive time last June, I thought a foreign policy review from top to bottom was the solution to get Canada back on track internationally. But I’ve changed my mind for two reasons: the world is in multiple crises revolving around COVID-19 that need to be acted on now, and Bob Rae has arrived on the scene. I don’t mean to present the estimable new Canadian ambassador to the UN as a world saviour, but he has quickly established himself as a champion of the UN humanitarian agenda, which centres around reducing the grotesque economic inequalities that the pandemic has worsened.”
In essence Roche is saying that a few months ago he was troubled by the world’s rejection of Canadian foreign policy but now that Rae and Prime Minister Trudeau have delivered a couple of high-minded, internationalist statements there’s little need to challenge government policy.
But things are far from all fine and dandy. The Trudeau government refused to join 122 countries at a UN conference to ban nuclear weapons in 2017 and has failed to sign the resulting treaty. They have announced a 70% increase in military spending, oversaw record (non-US) arms exports last year and dispatched troops on US and NATO missions to Iraq and Latvia (not to mention breaking their promise to rein in Canadian mining companies’ abuses, support for a repressive Haitian president, unprecedented campaign to overthrow Venezuela’s government, anti-Palestinian positions, etc.)
Rather than representing a break from the Liberals’ pro-US, pro-militarist and pro-capitalist policies, Rae’s appointment reflects a continuation of this outlook. As I detailed in “New UN ambassador Bob Rae pushes pro-US, militarist and anti-Palestinian positions”, Rae aggressively promoted bombing Libya in 2011, allied with Stephen Harper to extend the occupation of Afghanistan and has repeatedly undercut Palestinian rights.
A few high-minded speeches by Rae and other government officials does not make a just foreign policy. Rather than make nice with Rae, peace and antiwar minded individuals should directly confront the Trudeau government’s foreign policy. The two recent national days of action at dozens of MPs’ offices against purchasing new fighter jets and selling arms to Saudi Arabia are a good step. So was the “no Canada on UN Security Council” campaign.
Unfortunately, Roche’s perspective on this issue matters. A former ambassador for disarmament, Progressive Conservative MP and senator has significant influence in peace circles. He’s influential within the Canadian Network for the Abolition of Nuclear Weapons and two weeks ago Roche did an event with World Beyond War. But, Roche’s perspective is deleterious even if you stick to Roche’s main issue: nuclear disarmament.
If we are serious about forcing Ottawa to sign the UN nuclear ban treaty we need to grow the broader peace/demilitarization/anti-imperialist movement. More specifically, if many begin agitating against fighter jets and arms exports, or for Canada to leave the nuclear armed NATO alliance the government is more likely to concede to a push to sign the nuclear ban treaty.
Roche’s column praising Bob Rae should serve as a wakeup call to antiwar activists. The movement is far too focused on insider lobbying and policy wonkery. It needs to be much more oriented towards broad principled positions and social movement mobilization.
Which is more believable as motivation to send soldiers to other countries, altruism or self-interest?
Canadian forces don’t train their African counterparts out of a commitment to professionalism or democracy but to extend this country’s influence.
Recently the Ottawa Citizen reported that Canadian special forces will continue to participate in “U.S.-led training exercises despite links to instructing troops who have been involved in two separate military uprisings in Mali. Malian soldiers forced the resignation of the country’s President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita after they launched a coup on Aug. 18. Coup leader Col. Assimi Goita, as well as many of the soldiers who took part in the uprising, had received training at the U.S.-led annual Flintlock military exercises which involves western special forces providing counter-terrorism training to African units. A former army officer has now taken over as president in Mali and Goita has declared himself vice president.”
The Canadian Special Operations Regiment (CSOR) has participated in Exercise Flintlock since 2011. Sponsored by the US Africa Command (AFRICOM) and directed by the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Flintlock takes place in a different nation of the Sahel region of northern Africa each year. “Although Flintlock is considered an exercise, it is really an extension of ongoing training, engagement, and operations that help prepare our close Africa partners in the fight against extremism and the enemies that threaten peace, stability, and regional security,” said the commander of the US Joint Special Operations Task Force-Trans Sahel, Colonel Kenneth Sipperly, during Flintlock 2014.
In addition to Flintlock, Canadian forces have trained thousands of African military personnel in recent years in a variety of forums and countries across the continent. Hundreds of African soldiers have also come to train in Canada through the Military Training Assistance Program (MTAP).
Canadian officials generally tell the media the aim of training other militaries is to help fight terror or the illicit drug trade but a closer look at military doctrine suggests broader strategic and geopolitical motivations. An important objective is to strengthen foreign militaries’ capacity to operate in tandem with Canadian and/or NATO forces. According to Canada’s MTAP, its “language training improves communication between NATO and other armed forces” and its “professional development and staff training enhances other countries compatibility with the CF.” At a broader level MTAP states its training “serves to achieve influence in areas of strategic interest to Canada. … Canadian diplomatic and military representatives find it considerably easier to gain access and exert influence in countries with a core group of Canadian-trained professional military leaders.”
When Canada initiated post-independence military training missions in Africa a memo to cabinet ministers described the political value of training foreign military officers. It stated: “Military leaders in many developing countries, if they do not actually form the government, frequently wield much more power and influence domestically than is the case in the majority of western democratic nations … [It] would seem in Canada’s general interest on broad foreign policy grounds to keep open the possibility of exercising a constructive influence on the men who often will form the political elite in developing countries, by continuing to provide training places for officers in our military institutions where they receive not only technical military training but are also exposed to Canadian values and attitudes.”
As part of Canada’s post British rule aid efforts, Canadian troops trained armed forces in various African countries in the 1960s. In Ghana, Nigeria, Zambia and Tanzania, Canada endeavoured “to fill in the vacuum left by the withdrawal of British officers and training facilities,” notes Professor Robert Matthews. Military historian Sean Maloney further explains: “These teams consisted of regular army officers who, at the ‘operational level,’ trained military personnel of these new Commonwealth countries to increase their professionalism. The strategic function, particularly of the 83-man team in Tanzania, was to maintain a Western presence to counter Soviet and Chinese bloc political and military influence.”
In 1966 Ghana’s Canadian-trained army overthrew Kwame Nkrumah, a leading pan-Africanist president. After Nkrumah’s removal the Canadian High Commissioner boasted about the effectiveness of Canada’s Junior Staff Officers training program. Writing to the undersecretary of external affairs, C.E. McGaughey noted, “all the chief participants of the coup were graduates of this course.” (Canadian major Bob Edwards, who was a training advisor to the commander of a Ghanaian infantry brigade, discovered preparations for the coup the day before its execution, but said nothing.)
After Ghana won its independence the CF organized and oversaw a Junior Staff Officers course and took up a number of top positions in the Ghanaian Ministry of Defence. In the words of Canada’s military attaché to Ghana, Colonel Desmond Deane-Freeman, the Canadians in these positions imparted “our way of thinking”. Celebrating the influence of “our way of thinking”, High Commissioner McGaughey wrote the undersecretary of external affairs in 1965 that “since independence, it [Ghana’s military] has changed in outlook, perhaps less than any other institution. It is still equipped with Western arms and although essentially non-political, is Western oriented.”
When today’s internal documents are made available, they will likely show that Canadian military training initiatives continue to influence the continent’s politics in ways that run counter to most Africans’ interests.
Is it appropriate for the Canadian government to promote arms exports? And why, with its love of scandal does the dominant media not question this use of taxpayers’ dollars?
In recent days there’s been significant attention devoted to Canadian arms exports. A report by the UN’s Group of Eminent Experts on Yemen, which criticized Canadian weapons sales to Saudi Arabia, was widely covered. There has also been coverage of Streit Group’s sale of crowd control vehicles to Belarus and Ontario-based L3Harris WESCAM’s sale of sensors and laser targeting technology to the Turkish military, which have apparently been used in a number of conflicts including the ongoing war between Azerbaijan and Armenia.
The recent attention is welcome but there needs to be a broader discussion of Canadian arms exports. According to government statistics, there was $3.8 billion in “Non-U.S. Exports of Military Goods and Technology” in 2019. A similar amount of Canadian weaponry was probably delivered to the Pentagon, but the government doesn’t compile data on US exports (under the Defence Production Sharing Agreement the North American arms industry is highly integrated.) The Geneva-based Small Arms Survey consistently ranks Canada among the top 15 exporters of pistols, rifles and light machine guns. Canada’s share of global arms exports is several times greater than this country’s proportion of the world’s population.
Beyond a discussion of the size of Canadian arms exports, there is a need to assess the government’s role in promoting international sales. The Department of National Defence’s website highlights different forms of support to arms exporters. “Learn how the Department of National Defence can assist in connecting Canadian industry to foreign markets”, explains one section. Another notes, “Learn how the Department of National Defence keeps Canadian companies informed of business opportunities at the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).”
Based in 30 diplomatic posts around the world (with cross-accreditation to many neighbouring countries), Canadian Defence Attachés promote military exports. According to DND’s website, these colonels who are supported by sergeants and sometimes a second officer, assist “Canadian defence manufacturers in understanding and accessing foreign defence markets … facilitate Canadian industry access to relevant officials within the Ministries of Defence of accredited countries … support Canadian industry at key defence industry events in accredited countries … provide reports on accredited country defence budget information, items of interest, and trade issues to Canadian industry.”
Arms manufacturers have participated in trade missions with the minister of trade or prime minister. Diplomats in the field have also helped weapons companies connect with foreign governments and the Trade Commissioner Service supports the weapons industry. In 2010 a Trade Commissioner was embedded within the Canadian Association of Defence and Security Industries. CADSI missions receive financial support from the Global Opportunities for Associations program and Western Economic Diversification Canada awarded CADSI funds in 2015 to enable Western Canadian companies to participate in international arms events and delegations. Officials from DND, Global Affairs Canada and the Trade Commissioner Service have participated in recent CADSI trade missions to Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Israel, UAE, etc. Representatives of DND often talk up Canadian military equipment as part of delegations to international arms fairs such as the UK’s Defence Security and Equipment International exhibition.
An objective of Royal Canadian Navy visits to international ports has been to spur commercial relations, especially arms sales. Lieutenant Bruce Fenton writes, “Canadian warships can serve as venues for trade initiatives, as examples of Canadian technology, and as visible symbols of Canadian interest in a country or region. In countries where relationships are built over time, as is the case with many Asian and Middle Eastern countries, a visit by a Canadian warship can be an important part of a dialogue that can lead to commercial opportunities for Canadian industry.”
When ships were sent to enforce sanctions on Iraq in the 1990s, they also showcased Canadian vessels to the Kuwaiti navy. According to a 1995 DND report, HMCS Calgary was employed “as a platform for SJSL [Saint John’s Shipbuilding Limited] Kuwait Offshore Missile Vessel proposals and for Ambassador [to Kuwait J. Christopher] Pool to promote Canadian industry and technology.” In the mid 1990s RCN visits to the Middle East were credited with generating tens of millions of dollars in contracts for CAE Electronics and Computing Devices Canada.
Naval frigates have been sent to the UAE during the Abu Dhabi-based International Defence Exhibition and Conference (IDEX), the largest arms fair in the Middle East and North Africa. In 2013, noted Lieutenant Jonathan Douglas, “[HMCS] Toronto played host to Emirati dignitaries and representatives of the roughly 30 Canadian defence firms attending IDEX, providing a forum for networking against the backdrop of a floating symbol of Canadian naval power.” Six years later, researcher Anthony Fenton tweeted, “Canadian Commander of Bahrain-based naval task force visits UAE arms bazaar where over 50 CDN companies are flogging their wares.”
To help the arms companies, Commander of the Bahrain-based Combined Task Force 150, Commodore Darren Garnier, led a Canadian military delegation to IDEX 2019. The arms companies also received support from “15 trade commissioners and representatives from the Government of Ontario, National Defence, Global Affairs Canada, and the Canadian Commercial Corporation.”
A crown corporation, the Canadian Commercial Corporation (CCC) facilitates global arms sales. Initially called War Supplies Limited, CCC draws Canadian arms suppliers and foreign buyers together and is the middleperson on sales, meaning the contracts are secured by the government of Canada. CCC signs thousands of contracts yearly with the US Department of Defense and other militaries. The CCC brokered the highly controversial $14 billion light armoured vehicle sale to Saudi Arabia.
CCC openly capitalizes on warfare. During the war in Afghanistan CCC president Marc Whittingham wrote in the Hill Times, “there is no better trade show for defence equipment than a military mission.” During the 1991 Gulf war CCC set up a 24-hour telephone hotline to ensure that weapons “requests from allies wouldn’t get snarled in red tape.”
Describing the Canadian Association of Defence and Securities Industries as one of four “key industry association partners”, CCC participated in CADSI trade missions in recent years to Kuwait, England, UAE and elsewhere. In his 2017 book Security Aid: Canada and the Development Regime of Security Jeffrey Monaghan writes, “CCC representatives have accompanied the Minister of International Trade to Libya, Peru, Russia, Ghana, Nigeria, and other locations to export Canadian security and military materials.”
How much money does the Canadian government spend every year on promoting arms sales? Would a majority of Canadians support this use of their tax dollars? Why does the arms industry need government subsidies? Why do right wing ‘taxpayer groups’ never criticize this as ‘government waste’ or ‘choosing winners’ in the economy? These are some of the questions that require answers.
Published today in the Toronto Star, this article is supported by more than a hundred artists, activists and academics including David Suzuki, Roger Waters, Noam Chomsky, Ellen Gabriel, Pam Palmater, Monia Mazigh and Roméo Saganash. To view the full list of signatories or to add your name, visit: https://www.foreignpolicy.ca/petition
Despite its peaceful reputation, Canada is not acting as a benevolent player on the international stage.
Rather, Canada ranks among the twelve largest arms exporters and its weapons have fueled conflicts across the globe, including the devastating war in Yemen.
In a disappointing move, Canada refused to join 122 countries represented at the 2017 UN Conference to Negotiate a Legally Binding Instrument to Prohibit Nuclear Weapons, Leading Towards their Total Elimination.
Ottawa has also been an aggressive proponent of the nuclear-armed NATO alliance, and currently leads coalition missions in Latvia and Iraq.
Echoing Trump’s foreign policy, Canada has backed reactionary forces in the Americas. The Trudeau government has led efforts to unseat Venezuela’s UN-recognized government, while propping up repressive, corrupt and illegitimate governments in Haiti and Honduras. Canada also lent its support to the economic elites and Christian extremists who recently overthrew the democratically elected indigenous president of Bolivia.
In the Middle East, Canada has sided with Israel on almost every issue of importance. Since coming to power the Trudeau government has voted against more than fifty UN resolutions upholding Palestinian rights backed by the overwhelming majority of member states. The Canadian government has refused to abide by 2016 UN Security Council Resolution 2334, calling on member states to “distinguish, in their relevant dealings, between the territory of the State of Israel and the territories occupied in 1967.” On the contrary, Ottawa extends economic and trade assistance to Israel’s illegal settlement enterprise. Should it win a seat on the UNSC, Ottawa has stated that it will act as an “asset for Israel” on the Council.
Canadian mining companies are responsible for countless ecological and human rights abuses around the globe. Still, Ottawa defends the most controversial mining firms and refuses to restrict public support for companies responsible for abuses. The chair of the UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights criticized the Trudeau government for refusing to rein in mining abuses while the UN Special Rapporteur on human rights and hazardous substances and wastes has decried the “double standard” applied to Canadian mining practices domestically versus internationally.
Falling short of its responsibilities as a global citizen, Canada continues to oppose the Basel Ban Amendment on the export of waste from rich to poor countries, which became binding in late 2019 after ratification by 97 countries. Ottawa also failed to ratify the United Nations’ Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. Ottawa has refused to ratify more than 50 International Labour Organization conventions. In November 2019, Canada once again refused to back a widely supported UN resolution on “Combating glorification of Nazism, neo-Nazism and other practices that contribute to fuelling contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance.”
Violating the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, the Trudeau government sent militarized police into unceded Wet’suwet’en Nation territory to push through a pipeline. The UN Human Rights Committee recently documented various ways Canada is failing to live up to its obligations towards indigenous people under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
Ignoring front-line victims, Ottawa refuses to keep Canada’s dirty oil in the ground. Canada is on pace to emit significantly more greenhouse gases than it agreed to in the 2015 Paris Agreement and previous climate accords. Already among the world’s highest per capita emitters, the Canadian government is subsidizing further growth of heavy emitting tar sands, at the expense of impoverished nations who’ve contributed little to the climate crisis but bear the brunt of its impacts.
The international community should not reward bad behaviour. Please vote against Canada’s bid for a seat on the UN Security Council.
David Suzuki, Award winning geneticist/broadcaster
Roger Waters, co-founder Pink Floyd
Noam Chomsky, linguist, author & social critic
Ellen Gabriel, artist and activist
Roméo Saganash, former MP Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou
Sid Ryan, former president of Ontario Federation of Labour and CUPE Ontario
Rawi Hage, novelist
Amir Khadir, former Quebec National Assembly member
Pam Palmater, Chair in Indigenous Governance, Ryerson
Judy Rebick, activist and author
Jord Samolesky, Propagandhi
Steve Ashton, long-serving member of the Manitoba legislature and cabinet minister
George Elliott Clarke, poet and professor
Mairead Maguire, Nobel Peace Prize co-winner (1976)
Trevor Herriot, author and activist
John Clark, activist
Charles Demers, comedian & author
Alain Deneault, essayist and philosophy professor
Martin Duckworth, laureate of the 2015 Albert-Tessier Prix du Quebec for cinema
Cy Gonick, former Manitoba NDP MLA and founding editor of Canadian Dimension
John Greyson, film-maker & professor
Syed Hussan, Migrant Workers Alliance
El Jones, activist, educator, journalist and poet
Gordon Laxer, author/founding Director Parkland Institute
Monia Mazigh, PhD, author and activist
Jim Manly, Member of Parliament 1980-88
Kanahus Manuel, activist
Tim McCaskell, educator & activist
Sheelah Mclean, co-founder Idle No More organizer
Serge Mongeau, author & editor
Mike Palecek, former National President of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers
Dimitri Roussopoulos, author, and long-time peace movement activist
With millions forced out of work and many more stuck at home, Canadians need to ask tough questions of organizations receiving billions of dollars to protect them from foreign threats. The country’s intelligence/security sector has done little to respond to the ongoing social and economic calamity. Even worse, their thinking and practices are an obstacle to what’s required to overcome a global pandemic.
A recent Canadian Press article highlights the failure of intelligence agencies to warn of the COVID-19 outbreak. They largely ignore health-related threats despite receiving huge sums of federal money.
The Canadian Security Intelligence Service’s (CSIS) has more than 3,000 employees and a $500 million budget, which is nearly equal to that of the lead agency dealing with the pandemic. The Public Health Agency of Canada’s (PHAC) budget is $675 million and it has 2,200 employees. For its part, the Communications Security Establishment (CSE) employs 2,500 and receives over $600 million annually. In 2011 Department of National Defence run CSE moved into a new $1.2 billion, 110,000 square metre, seven-building, complex connected to CSIS’ main compound.
CSE is but one component of DND’s intelligence juggernaut. Not counting CSE, the Canadian Forces has greater intelligence gathering capacities than any organization in the country. While their budget and size are not public information, the government’s 2017 Defence Policy review notes that “CFINTCOM [Canadian Forces Intelligence Command] is the only entity within the Government of Canada that employs the full spectrum of intelligence collection capabilities while providing multi-source analysis.” The Defence Policy Paper called for adding 300 military intelligence positions and expanding CFINTCOM’s scope.
CFINTCOM has a medical intelligence (MEDINT) cell to track how global health trends and contagions impact military operations. Apparently, they reported on the coronavirus outbreak in January but it’s unclear who received that information.
The $2 billion spent on CSIS/CSE/CFINTCOM annually — let alone the more than $30 billion devoted to DND/Veterans Affairs — could have purchased a lot of personal protective equipment for health care workers. It could have paid for many ventilators and it could also have been used to raise the abysmally low wages of many who work in long-term care and nursing homes.
But, it’s not only that CSIS/CSE/CFINTCOM resources could be better used. Their ideology and structures are an obstacle to avoiding/overcoming a global pandemic. Two weeks ago, CSE put out a statement warning Canadian coronavirus researchers to beware of malign international forces seeking to steal their research. A Canadian Centre for Cyber Security statement noted, “these actors may attempt to gain intelligence on COVID-19 response efforts and potential political responses to the crisis or to steal ongoing key research toward a vaccine or other medical remedies.” But, wouldn’t it, in fact, be great if our ‘enemies’ in Russia, China, Iran, or anywhere else employed Canadian research to develop a cure or vaccine for COVID-19? Who, except extreme right-wing ideologues could believe a vaccine or cure should be patented and profited from?
It won’t be easy to shift their orientation to include pandemics. In a recent commentary, prominent intelligence agency insider Wesley Wark notes, “our security and intelligence agencies have never seen health emergency reporting as part of their core mandate, despite a plan laid down in the National Security Policy announced after SARS that unfortunately went nowhere.” For a time after the 2003 SARS outbreak the CSIS-based Integrated Threat Assessment Centre reported regularly on pandemic dangers, but the unit was soon collapsed into the Integrated Terrorism Assessment Centre. For the intelligence agencies “terrorism” is appealing because it justifies militarism and a ‘security’ state. Health emergencies, on the other hand, justify better work conditions for long-term care providers.
The CSIS/CSE/CFINTCOM definition of ‘security’ is heavily shaped by corporate Canada, state power projection and ties to the US Empire. In criticizing Canadian intelligence agencies’ failure to warn/protect us from the pandemic, Wark highlights the dangerously narrow outlook of the intelligence community. He suggests CSIS/CSE/CFINTCOM could have helped prevent the calamity by gathering better intelligence on China. But, if Beijing hid early information on COVID-19, it’s at least partly because China is locked in a destructive geopolitical competition with the US empire, which was instigated by Washington and its allies (from 1949 to 1970 Canada refused to recognize China and in 1950 sent 27,000 troops to Korea largely to check Chinese nationalism). In recent months CSIS/CSE/CFINTCOM have sought to identify China as a threat.
Wark’s thinking must be rejected. Avoiding and overcoming global pandemics requires a free exchange of health information. It also requires international solidarity.
After the COVID-19 crisis dies down, progressives should renew their push to devote intelligence agencies’ resources towards initiatives that protect ordinary Canadians’ security, rather than the interests of the rich and powerful.
Not satisfied with Canada’s largest public relations machine, the Canadian Forces also employ various “arm’s-length” institutions to push their influence over the discussion of military and international affairs.
For example, the Conference of Defence Associations (CDA) Institute recently published a half-page ad in the Globe and Mail to announce its Conference on Security and Defence. The March 3 and 4 meeting at the venerable Château Laurier was sponsored by the Department of National Defence (DND) and Global Affairs as well as Lockheed Martin, Raytheon and other arms companies. As in previous years, CDA’s confab in Ottawa drew leading military and political officials, including the Chief of the Defence Staff, who heard speakers hype security threats and push for increased military spending.
The headlines the conference generated included: “Russia poses most immediate military threat to Canada, top general says” (Globe and Mail), “Canada and the West are at war with Russia whether they want it or not: military experts” (Global) and “Top Canadian general calls out Russia and China for ‘antagonistic actions’” (CTV).
None of these stories explained what the CDA Institute actually is. The group describes itself as a “non-partisan, independent, non-profit organization [that] expresses its ideas and opinions with a view to influencing government security and defence policy.” Established in 1932, then Minister of Defence Donald Matheson Sutherland backed CDA’s creation. Since its inception CDA has been directly or indirectly financed by DND. Initially, member associations paid a small part of the funds they received from DND to CDA. But, three decades later the role was reversed. CDA received a block grant from DND and parcelled out the money to its various member associations.
Since its creation, defence ministers and governor generals (as commander in chief) have regularly appeared at CDA’s annual conference. The governor general, prime minister, defence minister and chief of the defence staff are honorary patrons or vice patrons of the organization.
At the height of Canada’s war in Afghanistan CDA received a highly politicized five-year $500,000 contract from DND. University of Ottawa professor Amir Attaran wrote, “that money comes not with strings, but with an entire leash.” To receive the money CDA committed to producing 15 opinion pieces or letters to the editor in major Canadian newspapers, generating 29 media references to the organization and eliciting 100 requests for radio/television interviews. The media work was part of a requirement to “support activities that give evidence of contributing to Canada’s national policies.” CDA didn’t initially disclose its 2007–12 DND sponsorship agreement, which was reviewed by cabinet.
CDA represents over 50 military associations ranging from the Naval Association of Canada to the Canadian Infantry Association, Royal Canadian Legion to the Military Intelligence Association. It is run by high-ranking former officers.
CDA publishes Security and Defence Briefings, Vimy Papers and Presentations and Position Papers. The organization’s quarterly journal ON TRACK “promotes informed public debate on security and defence issues and the vital role played by the Canadian Armed forces in society.” CDA has also published influential books such as Queens professor Douglas Bland’s A Nation at Risk: The Decline of the Canadian Forces.
To encourage militarist research, CDA awards a number of prizes. It puts on an annual graduate student symposium where $3,000 goes to the winning paper, $2,000 to second place and $1,000 to third place. CDA co-sponsors the Ross Munro Media Award to a “journalist who has made a significant contribution to understanding defence and security issues” and gives the Vimy Award to a “Canadian who has made a significant and outstanding contribution to the defence and security of Canada and the preservation of (its) democratic values.”
CDA advocates militarism. Its first official resolution noted “the urgent need for an increased appropriation for national defence.” At almost every CDA convention between 1946 and 1959 a resolution passed in favour of compulsory military training. A 1968 resolution called for universal military training, expressing concern that a generation of Canadians had become “unused to the idea of military service.”
In the 1980s CDA developed the idea of the “Total Defence of Canada”. In 1985 Colonel H. A. J. Hutchinson told a CDA meeting: “I would say that the Total Defence of Canada requires much more than just the support of the Canadian Armed Forces, it involves the organization of our total economy, our industrial base, towards a single objective — the defence of this country.” Hinting at the need to talk up US President Ronald Reagan’s revival of Cold War rhetoric, Hutchison said this “can only be made [possible] if the Canadian people perceive that it is necessary and that, in fact, it is the only course of action open to them.”
A 2000 CDA report funded by the Business Council on National Issues, the Molson Foundation and DND advocated increased military spending to defend free trade. It claimed “the defence establishment, including the Canadian Forces, plays a key role in an international policy which provides the insurance and the means which allow the national interest to flourish. It contributes to stability at home and abroad, thus supporting the development of an environment congenial to trade.”
In November Richard Fadden told CDA’s Vimy Dinner Canada had to be “clear-eyed” about Russia and China, which are prepared to “use virtually any means to attain their goals.” Fadden claimed, “the risks posed by these two countries are certainly different, but they are generally based on advancing all their interests to the detriment of the West.”
For the military and the industries that profit from militarism, it is important to have “arms-length” organizations that create the illusion of a diversity of voices. But honest writers should be blunt about the CDA. It is a war machine front group, created and controlled by the military.
More politically dependent than almost all other industries, arms manufacturers play for keeps in the nation’s capital. They target ads and events sponsorships at decision makers while hiring insiders and military stars to lobby on their behalf.
Activist and academic Tamara Lorincz recently posted a photo of an F35 ad in a bus shelter in front of Parliament Hill. US weapons giant Lockheed Martin is pushing hard to win a $19 billion contract to supply the Canadian air force with a fleet of new fighter jets.
To gain a share of the public funds on offer arms companies target ads at political and military leaders, promoting their products in washrooms and bus shelters where Department of National Defence (DND) and Canadian Forces (CF) officials congregate. Rideau Institute founder Steven Staples pointed out that “you can’t walk around in Ottawa without tripping over some arms dealer on Spark Street.”
Arms sellers also sponsor talks and exhibits attended by Ottawa insiders. They promote their brand at the Canadian War Museum, Gatineau-Ottawa airshow, Ottawa Chamber of Commerce, Conference of Defense Associations, etc.
Beyond promoting their wares in the nation’s capital, companies advertise aggressively in publications read by Ottawa insiders such as iPolitics, Ottawa Business Journal and Hill Times. “Today’s Morning Brief is brought to you by Canada’s Combat Ship Team,” noted a regular iPolitics ad. “Lockheed Martin Canada is leading a team of BAE Systems, CAE, L3 Technologies, MDA and Ultra Electronics to deliver the Royal Canadian Navy’s future fleet of surface combatants.” Their ads also foot much of the bill for journals read by military officials such as the Canadian Defence Review, Canadian Naval Review and Esprit de Corps.
Arms companies’ constantly lobby MPs and DND officials. In a “12-Month Lobbying Activity Search” of the Office of the Commissioner of Lobbying of Canada Lockheed Martin, CAE, Bombardier, General Dynamics, Raytheon, BAE, Boeing and Airbus Defence were listed dozens of times. Lockheed Martin’s name alone appeared 40 times in a recent search.
To facilitate access to government officials, international arms makers maintain offices in Ottawa. Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Northrop Grumman, BAE, General Dynamics, L-3 Communications, Airbus, United Technologies, Rayethon, etc. all have offices in Canada’s capital and most of them are a few blocks from Parliament.
A sales pitch carries more weight when it comes from a friend, CF “star” or experienced veteran. As a result, arms companies contract former CF and DND leaders to lobby on their behalf. Long-time Project Ploughshares campaigner Kenneth Epps explains: “there are many cases of government officials who, very early after retiring, become lobbyists or advocates of certain types of equipment or representatives of particular companies. They come from government and know the ins and outs of how government decisions are made, who in government to contact and what arguments might be useful to advocate for certain types of equipment.”
In October 2017 Lockheed Martin contracted retired Air Force commander Andre Deschamps to lobby for military contracts while Irving Shipbuilding hired former vice-admiral James King to push for Arctic and offshore patrol ship contracts. In 1983 three leading DND bureaucrats set up CFN Consultants. A late 1980s CFN brochure highlighted its “in-depth knowledge of Canadian government and military requirements, military specifications, contracting procedures and associated budgetary considerations.” Headquartered two blocks from Parliament, CFN Consultants remains dominated by retired military leaders.
But contracting former CF/DND as lobbyists is a half measure. Some arms firms offer executive positions to retired CF leaders. In 2013 former deputy commander at NORAD and commander of NATO forces in Libya, Charles Bouchard was appointed “country lead for Lockheed Martin Canada” in a bid to convince Ottawa to purchase its F-35 jets. Four years later L3 Technologies appointed Major General Richard Foster to oversee its Canadian business. The press release announcing its hiring of the former commander of the RCAF and deputy commander of the Joint Operations Command highlighted “his extensive military experience and work with foreign governments.” In 2012 former Navy commodore Kelly Williams became General Dynamics Canada’s senior director of strategy and government relations while three weeks after Lieutenant-General Andrew Leslie retired as Chief of Transformation for the CF, CGI Group appointed him to lead an Ottawa-based business unit seeking to “serve the Canadian Forces around the globe.”
It’s not only CF leaders who use their public sector careers as a springboard to lucrative arms industry positions. Weapons makers often hire top bureaucrats who were formerly responsible for arms procurement. Two weeks after stepping down as a deputy minister of defence in 2017 — after years of procurement work — John Turner was appointed vice president of operations at arms contractor PAL Aerospace. In 2011 CGI Group hired 12-year DND veteran Ken Taylor as vice-president of cyber security in Canada. A CGI Group press release noted: “In his new role, Ken will work closely with both government and commercial clients as part of the newly formed Canadian Defence, Public Safety and Intelligence business unit under the leadership of Lieutenant-General (retired) Andrew Leslie.” (Leslie was later Justin Trudeau’s Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs.)
The CF-leader-to-arms-executive pipeline is important to the upper echelon of the military. In 2008 columnist Don Martin pointed out that “dozens of retired officers pocket salaries they could never have dreamed of as soldiers.”
The prospect of a lucrative post-retirement industry position increases the likelihood that CF leaders identify the military’s interests with arms makers. The ‘rent a general’ pipeline strengthens interest in expensive new weaponry and opposition to arms control measures. Since many Canadian weapons companies are branch plants of US firms, lucrative post-retirement positions also increase CF leaders’ support of the US military-industrial complex.
To weaken militarism, it is imperative to reduce the financial benefits sloshing around the system. Senior CF and DND officials should be restricted from lobbying for at least five years after leaving the public service and other measures ought to be adopted to weaken the link between the military hierarchy and arms firms.
In the meantime, activists in Ottawa should follow Lorincz’ lead and ‘correct’ arms industry ads. She and other activists posted a sign on top of the Lockheed Martin ad outside Parliament noting, “F35 Climate Disaster: Green Jobs Not War Jobs!”
As many parents have warned their children, real friends do not encourage stupid, embarrassing, or life-threatening behaviour.
But because of our “friend” to the south, Justin Trudeau’s government has deepened ties to a repressive 250-year old monarchy in Kuwait and pursued other questionable policies.
After participating in the recent African Union Summit in Ethiopia Trudeau jetted off to meet the Emir of Kuwait, which has been part of the coalition bombing Yemen. The prime minister’s visit marked the most high-profile step in a bevy of diplomatic activity with a government where questioning the Emir or Islam is punishable with a significant prison sentence. During their meeting, notes the official press release, Trudeau “welcomed the long-standing friendship between Canada and Kuwait and thanked the Government of Kuwait for its support of our CAF [Canadian Armed Forces] personnel stationed in Kuwait as part of Operation IMPACT. The two leaders discussed recent developments in the region and agreed on the importance of working towards long term stability and security.”
Before the PM’s visit defence minister Harjit Sajjan had traveled to Kuwait City twice since December 19. In AprilSajjan also met Prime Minister and Defence Minister Sheikh Nasser Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah “to bolster and consolidate bilateral ties.” Three months earlier Governor General Julie Payette visited the Emir in Kuwait City. In November Payette sent a cable to the Emir to wish him well after an illness and the next month Assistant Deputy Minister of Global Affairs Peter McDougall met a Kuwaiti counterpart “to strengthen bilateral relations.” In August 2018 the two countries signed a memorandum of understanding on establishing regular consultations between senior officials.
At the Munich Security Conference last week foreign minister Francois-Philippe Champagne met his Kuwaiti counterpart Ahmad Nasser Al-Mohammad Al-Sabah. At an event in the Canadian Embassy on Monday Kuwait’s deputy foreign minister Khaled Al-Jarallah described the “distinguished … ties between the two countries” and “continuous communication and common interests.” On Thursday Minister of Veterans Affairs and Associate Minister of National Defence Lawrence MacAulay attended a celebration at Kuwait’s Embassy in Ottawa for Canadians who fought in the 1991 Iraq war.
The inaugural Kuwait and Canada Investment Forum took place in April. Finance minister Bill Morneau and parliamentary secretary Omar Alghabra participated. At the time Alghabra wrote, “let’s celebrate and continue our efforts to grow the relationship between Canada and Kuwait in investments, trade and defence.”
So, why the budding romance?
Relations with Kuwait are important to Ottawa because of the Canadian Forces base there. About 300 Canadians are stationed in Kuwait to support the Canadian special forces deployed to Iraq as well as two intelligence and one Canadian air-to-air refuelling aircraft. Alongside 200 highly skilled special forces, there’s a Canadian tactical helicopter detachment, intelligence officers and a combat hospital in Iraq. Despite being labeled a “training” mission, the Canadians called in US airstrikes, provided up-to-date battle intelligence and repeatedly engaged the enemy. A Canadian even killed someone with a record-breaking 3.5-kilometre sniper shot. The Canadian Forces backed Kurdishforces often accused of ethnic cleansing areas they captured. Canadian special forces supported a multi-month battle to dislodge ISIS from Mosul that left thousands of civilians dead in 2017.
Alongside the special forces and air support operations, Canada assumed command of the NATO Mission Iraq in November 2018. A Canadian commands 580 NATO troops, including 250 Canadians. They train instructors at three military schools and advise Iraq’s defence ministry.
The Liberals failed to properly explain why Canada took on a second mission in Iraq. But, it was likely tied to weakening the influence of the Iranian aligned Popular Mobilization Forces, Shia militias that helped defeat ISIS. According to Scott Taylor, “Canada agreed to take command of the NATO-led training mission in Iraq because the Liberal government knew it could not sell the Canadian public on sending troops back into the war in Afghanistan. That is where the NATO leaders wanted Canadians, which seems an incredibly ironic twist in that we originally agreed to go into Afghanistan because it was not Iraq.”
Trudeau and Sajjan’s recent missions to Kuwait are part of the fallout from Washington’s decision to assassinate Iranian general Qasem Soleimani and Iraqi Shia militia commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis. After the January 3 killings some Canadian forces in Iraq were withdrawn to the base in Kuwait. Iraq’s parliament passed a resolution demanding foreign soldiers leave the country and Iran threatened to retaliate against US troops in the region.
The flurry of recent diplomatic activity is likely designed to reassure Kuwaiti officials of Canadian backing and to ensure Kuwait doesn’t back out of the base arrangement. The Trudeau government has happily deepened ties to a repressive monarchy to support US policy in Iraq.
To maintain foreign troops in Iraq the Trudeau government has also pushed back against the Iraqi parliament’s call for foreign troops to leave. After the country’s parliament passed a resolution calling for foreign troops to go, defence minister Harjit Sajjan sought to convince his Iraqi counterpart of the importance of Canada’s presence. Last week Sajjan celebrated Iraqi leaders willingness to keep Canadian troops. Additionally, Middle East Eye reported on Iraqi and US military officials holding a secret meeting “in the private residence of the Canadian ambassador to Jordan in Amman” to discuss pulling back US troops from Iraq.
Makes one wonder what else the Trudeau government has done or will do to support US policy in Iraq?
Should peace groups challenge Canadian militarism by pushing clear, principled, demands or by promoting a militarist government’s bid to rebrand itself through a “peace” institute?
In a recent blog headlined “New Peace Centre needed to balance defence industry-funded think tanks”, the Rideau Institute promoted the proposed Canadian Centre for Peace, Order, and Good Government. Since October four different Rideau Institute blogs have talked up the Liberals’ Centre for Peace, Order, and Good Government. In their recent blog they linked to a January 29 Hill Times story headlined “A new Canadian peace centre could make a world of difference”. Authored by Rideau Institute head Peggy Mason and Senior advisor Peter Langille, the opinion piece called for the Centre for Peace, Order, and Good Government to be modeled after the former Canadian Institute for International Peace and Security (CIIPS).
In 1984 the federal government passed “An Act to Establish the Canadian Institute for International Peace and Security.” Under the legislation CIIPS was obliged to carry out research proposed by the “designated” minister. Associated with peace researchers, CIIPS was run by former External Affairs and military officials. Its first chair was William Barton who worked at External Affairs for three decades, including a stint as Canadian ambassador to the UN. The organization’s founding director was Brigadier-General George Gray Bell, who spent three decades in the military, and its initial executive director was Geoffrey Pearson, son of Lester Pearson. A former ambassador to the Soviet Union and Mongolia, Geoffrey Pearson wrote, “I have been identified with the government most of my life.” (See my Lester Pearson’s Peacekeeping: the truth may hurt for an assessment of his famed father’s international policies.)
While the institute generally reflected the liberal end of the dominant foreign policy discussion, CIIPS coordinator of research Mark Heller supported Canadian participation in the first Gulf War. The organization also aligned itself with Canadian policy in other ways. Geoffrey Pearson described the motivation for organizing a conference on Canada–Caribbean relations: “I thought that Canada ought to pay more attention to the … British Caribbean countries, where we had traditional interests and potentially important influence.” But Canada’s “traditional interests” in the British Caribbean have often been characterized as “imperialistic”. Canadian banks and insurance companies have dominated the English Caribbean’s financial sector for more than a century and prominent Canadians repeatedly sought to annex these territories.
In 1992 Brian Mulroney’s government disbanded CIIPS. While some suggested the decision was a response to policy prescriptions the government didn’t like, Ottawa claimed its decision was strictly financial. The government’s official explanation gives a good sense of how they viewed the institute. “It will cost the government $2.5 million less annually, because instead of having the Canadian Institute for International Peace and Security, we will have officials within the Department of External Affairs doing the same job.”
If its anything like CIIPS its doubtful the Centre for Peace, Order, and Good Government will push to withdraw from NATO, reduce military spending, end government support for arms exporters or withdraw Canadian troops from Iraq and Latvia. Instead the Centre for Peace, Order, and Good Government is likely to offer a public relations boost to a Liberal government promoting arm sales, NATO expansionism and increased military spending, not to mention brutal mining companies, anti-Palestinian positions, an unpopular Haitian president, a coup in Venezuela, etc.
It is unclear if Mason and Languille’s position is motivated by political ‘realism’, employment considerations, fear of political marginalization, discomfort with the depths of Canadian militarism or a desire to claim victory (the Rideau Institute is part of a coalition that suggested a similar institution). Or maybe they believe the peace movement should take whatever crumbs the Liberals drop from the table since they will be better than what a Conservative government offers.
The other side doesn’t have this attitude. As the recent Rideau Institute blog rightly pointed out the DND/arms industry funded Canadian Global Affairs Institute (CGAI) doesn’t hold back from articulating militarist positions. Last month CGAI held a conference on Modernizing North American Defence that painted Russia and China as apocalyptic threats, wanting to “destroy” (Moscow) and “own” (Beijing) us. Despite their lack of moral legitimacy, the militarists forcefully convey their positions.
Antimilitarists need organizations that do the same. Certainly, it’s not too much to expect a “peace” institute to call for reduced military spending, an end to public support for arms exporters and Canada’s withdrawal from NATO. Does the Rideau Institute believe the Centre for Peace, Order, and Good Government will do that?
I will be speaking alongside Peggy Mason at the World Beyond War conference in Ottawa on May 27.
Most Canadians would be surprised to learn that the sun never sets on the military their taxes pay for.
This country is not formally at war yet more than 2,100 Canadian troops are sprinkled across the globe. According to the Armed Forces, these soldiers are involved in 28 international missions.
There are 850 Canadian troops in Iraq and its environs. Two hundred highly skilled special forces have provided training and combat support to Kurdish forces often accused of ethnic cleansing areas of Iraq they captured. A tactical helicopter detachment, intelligence officers and a combat hospital, as well as 200 Canadians at a base in Kuwait, support the special forces in Iraq.
Alongside the special forces mission, Canada commands the NATO mission in Iraq. Canadian Brigadier General Jennifer Carrigan commands nearly 600 NATO troops, including 250 Canadians.
A comparable number of troops are stationed on Russia’s borders. About 600 Canadians are part of a Canadian-led NATO mission in Latvia while 200 troops are part of a training effort in the Ukraine. Seventy-five Canadian Air Force personnel are currently in Romania.
Some of the smaller operations are also highly political. Through Operation Proteus a dozen troops contribute to the Office of the United States Security Coordinator, which is supporting a security apparatus to protect the Palestinian Authority from popular disgust over its compliance in the face of ongoing Israeli settlement building.
Through Operation Foundation 15 troops are contributing to a US counter-terrorism effort in the Middle East, North Africa and Southwest Asia. As part of Operation Foundation General A. R. DAY, for instance, Directsthe Combined Aerospace Operations Center at the US military’s Al Udeid base in Qatar.
The 2,100 number offered up by the military doesn’t count the hundreds, maybe a thousand, naval personnelpatrolling hotspots across the globe. Recently one or two Canadian naval vessels — with about 200 personnel each — has patrolled in East Asia. The ships are helping the US-led campaign to isolate North Korea and enforce UN sanctions. These Canadian vessels have also been involved in belligerent “freedom of navigation” exercises through international waters that Beijing claims in the South China Sea, Strait of Taiwan and East China Sea.
A Canadian vessel is also patrolling in the Persian Gulf/Arabian Sea. Recently Canadian vessels have also entered the Black Sea, which borders Russia. And Canadian vessels regularly deploy to the Caribbean.
Nor does the 2,100 number count thecolonels supported by sergeants and sometimes a second officerwho are defence attachés based in 30 diplomatic posts around the world (with cross-accreditation to neighbouring countries). Another 150 Canadian military personnel are stationed at the North American Aerospace Defense Command headquarters in Colorado and a smaller number at NORAD’s hub near Tampa Bay, Florida. These bases assist US airstrikes in a number of places.
Dozens of Canadian soldiers are also stationed at NATO headquarters in Brussels. They assist that organization in its international deployments.
There may be other deployments not listed here. Dozens of Canadian soldiers are on exchange programs with the US and other militaries and some of them may be part of deployments abroad.Additionally, Canadian Special forces can be deployed without public announcement, which has taken place on numerous occasions.
The scope of the military’s international footprint is hard to square with the idea of a force defending Canada. That’s why military types promote the importance of “forward defence”. The government’s 2017 “Strong, Secure, Engaged: Canada’s Defence Policy” claims Canada has to “actively address threats abroad for stability at home” and that “defending Canada and Canadian interests … requires active engagement abroad.”
That logic, of course, can be used to justify participating in endless US-led military endeavors. That is the real reason the sun never sets on the Canadian military.