Canada’s military exports soar as numbers go unreported: CBC investigation

Posted: March 27th, 2010 by Militant Libertarian

from CBCNews

Canada’s military exports have more than tripled over the past seven years, a CBC News investigation has learned.

Over the past seven years, Canada has exported $3.6 billion in military goods. Canada now exports more arms and military goods than it imports.

The CBC analysis is based on customs data on exports specifically for military use, such as tanks, rocket launchers and munitions.

The surge in exports has made Canada the sixth-biggest supplier of military goods to the world, according to the most recent report by the U.S. Congressional Research Service.

The government’s last annual report to Parliament, for 2002, showed that military exports had climbed to $678 million from $304 million in 1997.

But the full extent of Canada’s military exports is hard to track with precision, because for the past four years the federal government has not released annual reports providing detailed information to Parliament.

Low transparency on arms control

The government’s silence is troubling at a time when the defence industry is growing so rapidly, said Janice Stein, director of the Munk Centre for International Studies at the University of Toronto.

“In its public foreign policy, Canada calls for transparency on this issue,” Stein told CBC News. “It has supported an arms register, yet our own government hasn’t released good, reliable data about who it’s exporting to.”

A spokesperson for the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade blamed the four-year silence on “technical glitches” in a new online export reporting system.

But arms control experts said the explanation is just the latest in a string of excuses stretching back to when the Liberals were in power.

The prolonged silence by Ottawa has now become an international embarrassment, said Ken Epps of Project Ploughshares, an arms control watchdog and peace group founded by the Canadian Council of Churches.

Epps cited a recent report by the Small Arms Survey, a Geneva-based monitoring group, which dropped Canada’s transparency rating on arms controls to just above that of Iran.

“Canada’s rating is 11 on the scale out of 20 this year and the rating for Iran is 10.5,” Epps said. “What does that say to you?”

Military shipments to U.S. go untracked

Tim Page, president of the Canadian Association of Defence and Security Industries, insisted that the more than 500 companies currently making defence and security products in Canada aren’t responsible for the silence.

“Logically, we should have no problem reporting on what we trade and who we trade it with,” Page said in a recent interview with CBC News.

“Including the United States?” the interviewer asked.

“Including the United States,” he replied.

But the federal government couldn’t release figures on military exports to Canada’s biggest buyer, the United States, even if it wanted to. Ottawa doesn’t track those sales.

In fact, most military exports to the U.S. don’t even need government permits because of a defence agreement signed by Ottawa and Washington in the 1940s.

The agreement leaves a huge loophole in Canada’s arms controls,  Stein said.

“The export licencing requirements for what we sell to the United States are so minimal that it is possible that some of that equipment moves to third parties,” Stein told CBC News. “We would never know.”

CBC News repeatedly asked for in-depth interviews with International Trade Minister David Emerson and Foreign Affairs Minister Maxime Bernier, the two cabinet ministers responsible for overseeing the tracking of military sales and approving export permits.

But those requests were denied. And for a full year, requests for background briefings by export control officials were also turned down.
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Hat Tip: Dan C


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