Tag Archives: CANSEC

Is Canada’s Minister of Defence an Arms Pusher?

harjit-sajjan-hmcs-charlottetown

Minister of Defence Harjit Sajjan

Would it surprise you to learn that Canada’s minister of defence is an arms pusher?

Last Friday members of Mouvement Québécois pour la Paix interrupted a $135-a-plate luncheon to confront defence minister Harjit Sajjan. At an event sponsored by SNC Lavalin, Bombardier, Rio Tinto, etc., we called for cutting military spending, for Canada to withdraw from NATO and an end to weapons sales to Saudi Arabia.

While Sajjan’s responsibility for NATO and military spending are straightforward, his role in fueling the Saudi led war in Yemen is less obvious. But, the Department of National Defence (DND) plays a substantial role in Canadian arms exports to Saudi Arabia and elsewhere.

As he did the last three years, Sajjan is set to speak at the CANSEC arms bazar in Ottawa later this month. For more than two decades the annual Canadian Association of Defence and Security Industries (CADSI) conference has brought together representatives of arms companies, DND, Canadian Forces (CF), various other arms of the federal government and dozens of foreign governments. In 2018 more than 11,000 people attended the two-day conference, including 16 MPs and senators and many generals and admirals.

The corporation supplying Saudi Arabia with more than $10 billion in Light Armoured Vehicles produces the same LAVs for the CF. In a 2012 Canadian Military History article Frank Maas writes, “the CF has continued to purchase LAVs because they have been successful in the field, and they support a domestic producer, General Dynamics Land Systems Canada (GDLS-C), that cooperates closely with the military.” GDLS’ London, Ontario, operations exist largely because of interventionist military industrial policy. A 2013 Federal government report on “Leveraging Defence Procurement Through Key Industrial Capabilities” lists GDLS as one of three “Canadian Defence Industry Success Stories.”

Beyond contracts, subsidies and various other forms of support to Canadian weapons makers, DND has long promoted arms exports. Its 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, Defence Attachés 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 … raise awareness in accredited countries of Canadian defence industrial capabilities … provide reports on accredited country defence budget information, items of interest, and trade issues to Canadian industry.”

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. According to a FrontLine Defence story titled “Representing Canada in the UAE IDEX”, representatives of DND helped 50 Canadian arms companies flog their wares at the Abu Dhabi-based International Defence Exhibition and Conference (IDEX) in February. To help the companies move their wares at the largest arms fair in the Middle East, Commander of the Bahrain-based Combined Task Force 150, Commodore Darren Garnier, led a Canadian military delegation to IDEX.

International ports visits by naval frigates are sometimes designed to spur 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.”

To get a sense of the interaction between the various components of the military industrial complex, the FrontLine Defence story detailing Canada’s participation in IDEX was written by Brett Boudreau. His byline notes that he “is a retired CAF Colonel, a Fellow with the Canadian Global Affairs Institute, and former Director of Marketing and Communications at CADSI.” Boudreau’s trajectory — from the CF, to arms industry spokesperson, to militarist think tank, to writing for a militarist publication — is a stark example of one individual moving through the various components of the military industrial complex. But Boudreau is not unique. It is common for retired CF and DND officials to take up arms industry posts, including senior positions. It wouldn’t be surprising if Sajjan ended up on the board of an arms company after he leaves politics.

Harjit Sajjan heads a ministry intimately tied to a globally oriented corporate weapons industry that profits from war. Is this something Canadians understand and support? Or would the majority of us be upset to learn their Minister of Defence is an arms pusher, promoting sales to anti-democratic, repressive regimes?

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Filed under Middle East, NATO

Ottawa’s incestuous world of pro-military lobbying

How do you feel about taxpayer-funded organizations using your tax dollars to lobby elected politicians for more of your tax dollars?

Welcome to the Canadian military.

Last week Anju Dhillon told the House of Commons “I saw first-hand the sacrifices that our men and women in the navy have made to protect our country.” The Liberal MP recently participated in the Canadian Leaders at Sea Program, which takes influential individuals on “action-packed” multi-day navy operations. Conducted on both coasts numerous times annually, nine Parliamentarians from all parties participated in a Spring 2017 excursion and a number more joined at the end of last year. The Commander of the Atlantic Fleet, Commodore Craig Baines, describes the initiative’s political objective: “By exposing them to the work of our men and women at sea, they gain a newfound appreciation for how the RCN protects and defends Canada at home and abroad. They can then help us spread that message to Canadians when they return home.”

And vote for more military spending.

MPs are also drawn into the military’s orbit in a variety of other ways. Set up by DND’s Director of External Communications and Public Relations in 2000, the Canadian Forces Parliamentary Program was labeled a “valuable public-relations tool” by the Globe and Mail. Different programs embed MPs in the army, navy and air force. According to the Canadian Parliamentary Review, the MPs “learn how the equipment works, they train with the troops, and they deploy with their units on operations. Parliamentarians are integrated into the unit by wearing the same uniform, living on bases, eating in messes, using CF facilities and equipment.” As part of the program, the military even flew MPs to the Persian Gulf to join a naval vessel on patrol.

The NATO Parliamentary Association is another militarist lobby in the nation’s capital. Established in 1955, the association seeks “to increase knowledge of the concerns of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly among parliamentarians.” In The Blaikie Report: An Insider’s Look at Faith and Politics long time NDP external and defence critic Bill Blaikie describes how a presentation at a NATO meeting convinced him to support the organization’s bombing of the former Yugoslavia.

Military officials regularly brief members of parliament. Additionally, a slew of “arms-length” military organizations/think tanks I detail in A Propaganda System: How Canada’s Government, Corporations, Media and Academia Sell War and Exploitation speak at defence and international affairs committees.

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.

Arms sellers’ foremost concern in Ottawa is accessing contracts. But, they also push to increase Canadian Forces funding, ties to the US military and government support for arms exports, as well as resisting arms control measures.

In a recent “12-Month Lobbying Activity Search” of the Office of the Commissioner of Lobbying of Canada the names of Lockheed Martin, CAE, Bombardier, General Dynamics, Raytheon, BAE, Boeing and Airbus Defence were listed dozens of times. To facilitate access to government officials, international arms makers Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Northrop Grumman, BAE, General Dynamics, L-3 Communications, Airbus, United Technologies, Rayethon, etc. all have offices in Ottawa (most are blocks from parliament).

The Canadian Association of Defence and Security Industries is the primary industry lobby group. Representing over 900 corporations, CADSI has two-dozen staff. With an office near parliament, CADSI lobbyists focus on industry-wide political concerns. The association’s 2016 report described: “an intense engagement plan that included hundreds of engagements with targeted decision makers, half of which were with Members of Parliament, key ministers and their staffs, including the Prime Minister’s Office. From one-on-one meetings, to roundtables, to parliamentary committee appearances, to our first ever reception on Parliament Hill, we took every opportunity to ensure the government understood our industries and heard our message.”

CADSI organizes regular events in Ottawa, which often include the participation of government agencies. The CANSEC arms bazar is the largest event CADSI organizes in the nation’s capital. For more than two decades the annual conference has brought together representatives of arms companies, DND, CF, as well as the Canadian Commercial Corporation, Defence Research and Development Canada, Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada, Public Services and Government Services Canada, Trade Commissioner Service and dozens of foreign governments. In 2017 more than 11,000 people attended the two-day conference, including 14 MPs, senators and cabinet ministers,andmany generals and admirals. The minister of defence often speaks at the 600-booth exhibit.

The sad fact is enormous profits flow to a few from warfare. In a system where money talks, militarists on Parliament Hill will always be among the loudest voices.

To rise above their din, we need to figure out ways to amplify the sound of the millions of Canadians who prefer peace.

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Filed under A Propaganda System