Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Merchants of Death Coming to the Capital: Ottawa to Host International Arms Trade Show

Basics Issue #10 (Aug/Sep 2008)

From September 30 to October 1, Lansdowne Park in Ottawa will play host to an international arms trade show, sponsored by some of the biggest players of the military-industrial complex, including General Dynamics, Sun Microsystems and General Atomics.

The exhibition is moving ahead despite a 1989 Ottawa City Council ban on arms shows on city property. The ban came about after community groups launched a campaign against ARMX, Canada’s biggest arms trade show at the time. Under mounting pressure, the politicians were won over and banned all arms exhibitions from all city parks and facilities in a near-unanimous vote.

City staff have attempted to defend the decision to allow the arms show to take place by claiming that Secure Canada 2008 is not really an arms show at all, since actual weapons will not be on display. The group Coalition Against the Arms Trade rejected this excuse in a public letter, pointing out that many of the exhibitors “are famous the world over for the manufacture of bombers and fighter aircraft, frigates, destroyers, intercontinental ballistic missiles, tanks and other large weapons and weapons delivery systems which do not lend themselves to display at most “arms exhibitions” where booths average 8’x10.’”

The arms show will be a three-part exhibition featuring a veritable who’s who of the military-industrial complex. The first part, “Secure Canada and the World” is to be hosted by the U.S. Embassy and the British High Commission in Ottawa and will feature “pavilions” for the display of top American and British weapon producers. The second part, “Tech Net North” will run under the theme of “National Security in a Coalition Environment” and is organized by the Canadian chapter of the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association (AFCEA), a non-profit group that encourages close cooperation between the government, the military, corporations, and academics. The third part, “Unmanned Systems Canada Expo” is organized by the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI). The AUVSI main office is in Arlingon, Virginia, about 12 miles from CIA headquarters. Back in the 1990s, Anne Healey, the current Executive Director of AUVSI Canada, infiltrated the peace movement in Ottawa as a spy for her father, a retired Rear-Admiral and lobbyist for the arms industry.

The fair will also allow Canadian arms traders to show off their deadly wares. MacDonald Dettwiler and Associates (MDA), a Vancouver-based company, produced satellites (paid for by taxpayers for around $1 billion) that have placed Canada in a leading role in the militarization of space. The satellites were used extensively by Canadian, American, and other NATO forces in the criminal wars against Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, and Iraq. Montreal-based Canadian Aviation Electronics Ltd. (CAE), a “global leader” in military simulation technology, produces training systems for various military forces around the world, including the U.S. Army, NATO, and the Israeli Air Force – all of whom are currently engaged in ongoing war crimes.

Although the exhibition will be closed to public scrutiny, we can expect that heads of the Canadian government and military will be doing more than just attending. They will also be on the lookout for the latest war-toys to purchase for the Canadian military as part of the Harper government’s pledge to pour billions of dollars into upgrading military hardware so that Canada can unleash even more violence on the world stage. Canada currently spends $18.9 billion a year on the military, more than it spent on average during World War II. This is money that could have gone to creating jobs or social programs.

The people of Canada must demand that this arms trade show be cancelled! Contact Ottawa’s mayor, Larry O’Brien by email at Larry.Obrien@ottawa.ca or regular mail at City Hall, 110 Laurier Ave. West, Ottawa, ON, K1P 1J1 and tell him to uphold the ban on arms bazaars!