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Anti-war activists protest arms sales at CANSEC

Groups accuse Canada of supporting human rights violations abroad

Around a hundred people took to the streets this morning in front of EY Centre Ottawa to denounce the opening of CANSEC, “Canada’s largest global and security trade show”. The protesters joined the call of the International League of People’s Struggle (ILPS) to condemn the holding of an arms sale show in the context of increasing human rights violations by Canada’s allies abroad.

CANSEC – the Canadian Association of Defence and Security Industries – is held annually in Ottawa. It hosts exhibitions of the world’s leading arms manufacturers and is visited by Canadian MPs, Senators, Ministers as well as dozens of international delegations. According to CANSEC, 74% of delegates have “purchasing power”.

But protesters denounce the show as cynical amidst rising global tensions and war.  They point to the destination of Canada’s largest arms trade sales outside the US, Saudi-Arabia, which represents  64% of those sales. Saudi-Arabia has been waging an almost decade long war against neighboring Yemen, fueling what is described as the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. Moreover, the Saudi regime – one of the world’s last remaining absolute monarchies – is widely denounced for its authoritarianism and infringement on basic human rights and civil liberties domestically.

Among the crowd, young Palestinians joined the protests to denounce Canada’s support for the Israeli regime despite continuous violations of international agreements and the persistent violent expropriation of Palestinian communities.

Human rights advocates from the Philippines decried Canada’s rapprochement with president Ferdinand Marcos Junior, the son of the well known Ferdinand Marcos who led a brutal dictatorial regime in the 70’s and enriched his family by pillaging billions in public funds. Far from rupturing with his father’s past, Marcos Jr. has worsened the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ record of extrajudicial killings.

Demonstrators from Peru also joined to decry Canada maintaining arms sales and diplomatic relations with the regime who came to power following the ousting of democratically elected president Pedro Castillo. Canadian weapons, they claim, could be used by Peruvian police forces firing on crowds with live ammunition. Dozens of Peruvians have died in street demonstrations since appointed president Dina Boluarte came to power in what many see as a coup d’État.

Activists from the ILPS denounce Canada’s hypocrisy in pretending to be an advocate for peace and human rights. Canada not only fuels conflict abroad, they claim, but also here – Manufacturers present at CANSEC such as Colt Canada and General Dynamics furnish the RCMP as it furthers Canadian colonial domination on Indigenous communities. Colt Canada, is the largest arms supplier to the RCMP. In 2016, the RCMP bought more than $9 million of weapons and parts from COLT Canada. In the same year, the RCMP bought $8 million of ammunition supplied by the Canadian subsidiary of General Dynamics Corp.

Attending the demonstration will be groups representing migrant workers and youth, including the Anti-Imperialist Alliance, Migrante, Anakbayan, and the Palestinian Youth Movement, Samidoun, International Migrant Alliance, Solidarios con luchas de Perú, World Beyond War Canada, Peace Brigades International – Canada.

Not only do these weapons kill people, they destroy whole communities and displace people from their homes, forcing them to seek employment abroad. Migrant workers in Canada often face exploitative conditions, low wages, and are often denied a clear path to citizenship.

“The Canadian state year after year has consistently increased its military budget while also sending resources to authoritarian regimes worldwide to serve its own corporate interests. The working class and Indigenous peoples of Canada continue to suffer under skyrocketing cost of living and inflation as the Canadian state continues its project of colonization on indigenous land by extending Canadian militarism. CANSEC is a manifestation of Canada’s military economy that puts profits before the needs of the people. “

  • Trevor Younie, International League of Peoples’ Struggle in Canada

“While Palestinians continue to fight for freedom, Canadian arms trade with Israel is increasing year over year. Even more, CANSEC will host some of the most notorious arms companies involved in Israeli colonization and occupation, from Elbit Systems to HP Enterprises, which provides technology to run Israel’s mass incarceration system. Even the Israeli Embassy will be present. To stand with Palestine, it’s time to shut CANSEC down!”

  • Charlotte Kates, Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network 

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