Fuelling Wars, Supplying the Warmongers

Canadian gov’t heavily subsidizing our military companies
March 1, 2010

Between 2003 and 2006, Canada’s war industries profited from at least $7.4 billion in exports to 88 foreign governments.  Of these Canadian military exports, 93% ($6.8 billion) went to 62 nations with troops fighting in major armed conflicts.  Of these 62 warring nations fuelled by Canadian military technologies, 55 had troops fighting outside their borders. 

Canada's military exports to countries waging only internal armed conflicts totalled a mere $12 million. This means that well over 99% of the warring countries receiving Canadian military hardware had troops deployed abroad in foreign conflicts.

As usual, one country in particular — the United States — purchased the lion's share of Canada's war industry exports.  About three-quarters of Canada’s military exports flow stateside to help arm the world's rogue superpower.

During the four-year period in question, the U.S. led military coalitions waging major wars in both Afghanistan and Iraq. The U.S. also spearheaded a multinational invasion in 2004 that — with much Canadian help — illegally overthrew Haiti's democratic government and appointed a brutal dictatorship.

In pretended ignorance of this Canadian complicity in fuelling U.S.-led invasions, regime changes and occupations, the “export control policy guidelines mandated by Cabinet” state that “Canada closely controls the export of military goods and technology to countries...involved in or under imminent threat of hostilities.”


What peace? What security?

In its most recent report, Export of Military Goods from Canada 2006, the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade (DFAIT) began by making this ludicrous claim: “A key priority of Canada’s foreign policy is the maintenance of peace and security. To this end, the Government of Canada strives to ensure that Canadian military exports are not prejudicial to peace, security or stability in any region of the world or within any country.”

This patently duplicitous document then lists a coterie of violently repressive and warring nations to which Canada is selling everything from ammunition, automatic weapons, armoured vehicles, rockets and missiles, to high-tech electronic systems essential to the functioning of numerous varieties of warplanes, warships, and tanks used in Iraq, Afghanistan, and other killing fields.

Such Canadian hypocrisy in promoting and profiting from war industry exports, while pretending to protect international peace and security, is rife within countless Canadian government documents, speeches, and statements. 

Since their appearance in 1990, DFAIT’s annual military export reports have been riddled with deliberate falsehoods and massive loopholes. Although said to exemplify transparency in the international arms trade, they actually cover up most military exports.

For instance, these reports have never disclosed any data on Canada's military exports to the United States!


Pets of the Pentagon

As an integral part of the “North American Military Industrial Base,” Canadian arms manufacturers are so thoroughly integrated into the U.S. war economy that the Pentagon generally treats them as domestic U.S. industries.  And Canada requires war industries to procure special permits for all military exports, except those destined for the U.S.

Besides facilitating this unrestricted flow of weapons-related technologies to the world's most bellicose nation, the Canadian government has handed out billions in grants, unpaid loans, and “investments” to subsidize this country's already highly-profitable war industries. Under Canada-U.S. trade agreements, such corporate welfare is only allowed within two sectors — military production and energy. The Pentagon, of course, is eager to exploit this cheap access to the latest in expensive, publicly-financed Canadian military equipment.

DFAIT also supports a lobby group representing 700 of Canada's top war industries. This organization, the Canadian Association of Defence and Security Industries (CADSI), organizes CANSEC — Canada’s largest arms bazaar. CADSI received grants of at least $191,554 between 2006 and 2008 for its efforts to expand Canada’s role in the global arms trade. 

As a DFAIT-funded lobby group, CADSI urges its government paymasters to increase military spending and boost subsidies to war industries. But when CADSI updated its registration with Canada’s Commissioner of Lobbying in 2009, it was loose with the truth and said it had not received any funds from the Canadian government during the previous year.


CPP’s war investments

As if all this wasn't insult enough to the Canadian public — which generally deludes itself with the myth that this country is a glowing symbol of global peace — the Canada Pension Plan forces working Canadians to invest their retirement savings in many of the world's biggest war industries. 

This national complicity in war profiteering reached a peak in 2008 when over $1 billion in CPP holdings were invested in companies ranked among the world's top 100 weapons contractors. 

Only one Canadian-owned war industry is large enough to appear on Defense News' prestigious top-100 list. That company — Montreal's CAE Inc. — currently benefits from a sizeable CPP investment of $24 million. 

Because Canada is itself at war in Afghanistan, military industries don't have to rely on export markets to get their gear into action. Last May, Minister of Defence Peter MacKay chose CADSI's annual CANSEC arms exhibition in Ottawa to announce that, despite the global economic meltdown, Canada’s government would guarantee spending $60 billion on new military hardware. 

He also told the delighted military-industrial élite that Canada's annual military budget of $19 billion would be increased to $30 billion by 2027.

Industry Canada’s Strategic Aerospace and Defence Initiative (SADI) is a government flagship for moving billions in public "investments" to Canada’s private military enterprises. One of SADI’s self-proclaimed goals is making Canada “attractive to top scientific and engineering talent in cutting-edge A&D [Aerospace and Defence] industries.”

Over the past two years, SADI channeled $425 million into eleven Canadian companies. While only three of these strutted their stuff at the CANSEC 2009 arms show, this trio received the majority of SADI funding, getting 80% of the total disbursed. Let’s take a peek at these triplets and their recent success in suckling at the teat of government largesse.



CAE has reversed the usual pattern of North American military corporations. It is Canadian-owned, with subsidiaries south of the border. CAE describes its main products for dozens of major weapons systems as “innovative modelling and simulation technologies.”

Ninety percent of its $1.4-billion annual revenues comes from exports. Describing itself as a “global leader in the design of sophisticated military training systems for air, land, and sea applications,” it has supplied these technologies to “more than 30 nations.”

CAE’s infamous flight simulators are part of its strategy for “staying at the cutting edge” with a two-edged function: "training" and "mission rehearsal."

These contributions to war-fighting have long been handsomely rewarded by the Canadian government. In 2008 alone, CAE reported receiving $52.2 million from the Department of Industry’s Technology Partnership Canada program.

In March 2009, SADI handed over $250 million to CAE.  Official announcements predictably assured taxpayers that this quarter-billion in tax dollars would “contribute to high-quality employment opportunities [and] strengthen Canada’s workforce with talented scientists, engineers, and researchers.”

Six weeks later, however, CAE said it was slashing 700 workers, mostly in Montreal, where Industry Minister Tony Clement and Minister of Public Works and Government Services Christian Paradis had staged their gladhanding photo-op to announce SADI's investment to “strengthen Canada’s workforce.”


Bristol Aerospace

Bristol is world famous for its government-subsidized CRV-7 air-launched weapons system. (CRV, which stands for Canadian Rocket Vehicle, is an unguided missile proudly created by our government. Bristol markets it with a variety of warheads — including those carrying anti-personnel cluster munitions, fragmentation bombs, dart-like projectiles, and high-explosive white phosphorus. The latter, inextinguishable by water, burns through human flesh to the bone. 

In September 2008, Conservative MP Vic Toews announced a federal “investment” of $43.4 million in Bristol to put Manitoba on the “cutting edge of research, innovation, education, and skills training.”

This is part of government efforts to “sustain Canada’s participation in the multinational Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) program.” This U.S.-led effort is building the world’s most advanced airborne weapon, the F-35 “Lightning II” warplane.

Our government says it will pour over $500 million into this cash cow for war industries. CADSI notes that Bristol will manufacture "major composite structural items," including “wing, airframe and landing gear...complex frames and assemblies for the engines.”

The bottom line for promoting SADI's $43-million "investment" in Bristol was lots of high-paying jobs.  However, seven months later, when Manitoba's NDP government gave Bristol another $20 million for the JSF project, its vice-president reported that there were only “15 to 20 Bristol people working on the JSF.”


Esterline-CMC Electronics

On January 13, 2009, the Canadian government unveiled a generous $52.3-million “investment” in CMC — one of Canada’s largest money-making war industries. Ministers Clement and Paradis announced support for CMC's “innovative cockpit technologies,” stating that, “In addition to encouraging Canadian companies to perform cutting-edge R&D, SADI attracts foreign investment to Canada, advances innovation, and helps develop a highly skilled workforce.”

At the time of this announcement, several major U.S.-made weapons systems were being used to bombard Gaza's densely-populated civilian neighbourhoods. CMC's cockpit technologies are aboard many of the world’s most lethal weapons systems, including some then being seen over Gaza –  AH-64 “Apache” helicopter gunships and F-15 and F-16 warplanes. 

CMC's "cutting edge" systems have also seen action in at least two dozen other types of U.S. military aircraft used to wage the Iraq War, in which over 1.3 million people have been killed since 2003.

Even if scores of Canadian jobs were created, how could such horrific death tolls from state-sponsored terror justify the horrific price paid by innocent civilians abroad?


It’s not really about jobs

Let's dispense with the myth that the Canadian government has been subsidizing arms manufacturers for all these decades in order to create jobs. This is just a sorry pretext — a confidence trick — to cover up the pilfering of public funds to promote war. 

If governments were serious about increasing employment, they would invest more in socially-useful, labour-intensive sectors of the economy, not the war industries.

Over the decades, many studies have proved that military spending is among the worst methods ever conceived for putting people to work. Research by the U.S. Institute for Policy Studies, in 2007, found that, for every billion dollars shovelled into war industries, 8,555 jobs are created. This pales in comparison to investments in other industries. For example, 50% more jobs are generated for every billion invested in home construction (12,804) and health care (12,883), while twice as many jobs are created in education (17,687), and 2.3 times as many in mass transit (19,795).

But, besides creating more jobs, investing in social sectors provides much-needed benefits for those who are putting up the cash. So, while grubstaking war industries generates far fewer jobs and provides no social services whatsoever, it also takes a terrifying toll on civilians who comprise 80% of the casualties in modern wars. This creates more enemies and makes us less secure.

As Canadian Lt.-Gen. Andrew Leslie noted: "Every time you kill an angry young man overseas, you’re creating 15 more who will come after you.” Leslie did not calculate how many enemies are created by killing women and children.

Make no mistake: war is big business. It generates profits not only for war industries, but also for corporations benefiting from regime changes that we force upon other societies. War is indeed about making the world peaceful and secure -- not for us, but for the corporations that — while plundering natural and human resources — are running roughshod over the world.


(Richard Sanders is coordinator of the Coalition to Oppose the Arms Trade (COAT) and editor of COAT's magazine, Press for Conversion! For more information, see COAT's website at http://coat.ncf.ca)