Yves Engler: The Harper administration is propping up its domestic arms industry without regard to the consequences of weapons sales to countries like Colombia and Saudi Arabia
ANTON WORONCZUK, TRNN PRODUCER: Welcome to The Real News Network. I’m Anton Woronczuk in Baltimore. And welcome to another edition of The Engler Report.
Joining us now is Yves Engler. Yves Engler is a Canadian commentator and author. His most recent book is The Ugly Canadian: Stephen Harper’s Foreign Policy.
Thanks for joining us, Yves.
YVES ENGLER, AUTHOR AND POLITICAL ACTIVIST, MONTREAL: Thanks for having me.
WORONCZUK: So, earlier this month the Postmedia News reported that the Canadian government is going to try and support its domestic arms industry by expanding the number of countries with whom it can do arms deals. But earlier, in September 2013, the Harper government also said that it wouldn’t support–or wouldn’t sign an international arms treaty that would regulate its arms deals with foreign governments that are potential human rights abusers.
So my question is: who in the Canadian government is trying to expand the countries with whom the ‑Canadian government can do foreign arms deals?
ENGLER: Well, I think the Harper government has shown a very strong and militarist bent, has, you know, increased the Canadian military budget, has, you know, gone to war in Libya, Afghanistan, and been, you know, very vocal, supportive of militarism. And this is a kind of an extension of this.
They oppose efforts to control international weapons sales, hence their opposition to the UN Arms Trade Treaty. You know, at previous meetings of the UN Arms Trade Treaty, they bring members of the gun lobby in this country that they actually become part of the Canadian delegation to the negotiations around the Arms Trade Treaty. So they were sort of trying to undermine the treaty from inside and refusing to sign it right now.
So there’s an organized arms industry in this country that sells something in the range of $12 billion a year in weapons sales, and they clearly have the ear of the government. And they would like to see–the Postmedia report that you referred to talked about how there is a concern within the arms industry in this country over sort of reductions in sales to traditional allies, be it the U.S., be it other NATO countries that are generally the main place that most Canadian weapons sales go.
And so the idea is is that opening up new markets–places like Columbia, other countries–adding those countries to the list of countries that Canadian weapons companies can sell to without special authorization.
And so I think that the Conservative government ideologically is very sympathetic to militarism. And they’re also quite close to the arms industry.
So I think that’s the kind of main forces driving these moves.
WORONCZUK: And so, what countries has the Canadian government engaged in arms deals with in the past? And maybe you could focus a bit on some arms deals to Middle Eastern governments.
ENGLER: Yeah. I mean, there’s been a–you know, Canadian arms industry has been ranked, depending on how it’s quantified, anything from the six biggest in the world to about the 12th biggest in the world. So it’s a fairly significant arms industry. Most of that is components of larger weapons projects, often high-tech pieces that go into weapons that are actually built in the U.S. And there’s, you know, some major corporations, companies like CAE, a Montreal-based company that’s world leader in simulation technology and training fighter jet pilots [and the like]. And so there’s a long history.
Light armored vehicles that are built in London, Ontario, that was one of the recent announcements of delivery of a significant number of light armored vehicles to Colombia. Much bigger–the second-biggest recipient of Canadian weapons after the U.S. is actually Saudi Arabia in recent years, and actually going back for quite a few years now. It sort of varies a little bit depending on the year. But billions of dollars in Canadian light armored vehicles have been sent to Saudi Arabia in recent years. Those are light armored vehicles that we use to crack down on the pro-democracy demonstrations in Bahrain, when the Saudi forces entered Bahrain to prop up the 200-plus year monarchy in Bahrain.
There’s been–there was–a year ago, the major arms fair in the Middle East, in the UAE, I believe it was the Canadian ambassador there was actively promoting all the Canadian companies that were at the arms fair and really sort of cheerleading. The Canadian government even sent a Canadian naval vessel to the region during the arms fair to sort of, like, show Canada’s military might. And oftentimes our naval vessels are used as a way to generate weapons sales globally.
So the Canadian government is–Canadian companies have been selling weapons all around the world. One of the ones that got a lot of controversy–this is going back seven, eight, nine years ago–was SNC-Lavalin that had received a huge order to sell bullets to the U.S. military because the U.S. military had used up so many of its bullets in Iraq. And so they get a huge order for SNC-Lavalin. Fortunately, in that case the peace movement, the antiwar movement launched a campaign against SNC-Lavalin and was successful in forcing SNC-Lavalin to actually sell its bullet-making component of the company.
So yeah, there’s a long history of Canadian weapons sales globally, and the Harper government seems bent on expanding those weapons sales, whatever the consequences for human rights globally.
WORONCZUK: Yves, thanks so much for that report.
ENGLER: Thanks for having me.
WORONCZUK: And thank you for joining us on The Real News Network.
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