By Richard Sanders, Coordinator, Coalition to Oppose the Arms Trade (COAT); Editor, Press for Conversion! magazine
Many concerned Canadians watched in horror as some of the world’s deadliest aircraft attacked the densely populated Palestinian neighbourhoods of Gaza. Shocked by media images, we looked on from half a world away, as multi-million dollar weapons systems launched seemingly endless quantities of munitions against a besieged people.
Already devastated by the Israeli government’s blockade that imposed a stranglehold on food, medicine and humanitarian supplies, more than 1380 Gazans — including 431 children — were killed in the onslaught. More than 5,300 were injured — more than half being women and children — while 22,000 housing units and civic buildings were either totally or partially destroyed. Meanwhile, five Israeli citizens were killed by small homemade, Hamas rockets fired from Gaza.
Reaction from top Canadian officials, including Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon, was swift and unequivocal. Hamas was condemned as the cause of the violence. On January 12, at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, Canada voted against demanding “urgent international action” to halt Israel’s “massive violations” of human rights. The sole dissenting vote came from Canada, whose spokesperson, Marius Grinius, said the UN statement “used unnecessary, unhelpful and inflammatory language” and “failed to clearly recognize that rocket fire on Israel had led to the current crisis.”
To many Canadians who observed the bombing of Gaza from the safety of their peaceful homes, the destruction raining down on innocent victims seemed so distant — so foreign — as to be incomprehensible. How could anyone countenance any complicity in such atrocities?
But the sense that Canada is a world apart, utterly separated from Gaza and other war zones, is but a grand illusion aided and abetted by corporate media that consistently ignore our country’s role in global atrocities.
One of the ways that Canada is intimately linked to war crimes is through the international arms trade, and Gaza provides us with a jarring case in point.
Playing our High-Tech part in Gaza’s Destruction
Unbeknownst to most Canadians, thousands of military exporters are scattered across this country like so many razors hidden in a loaf of bread. While most of these companies are located in Ontario and Quebec — primarily in and around Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal — every province has its share of war manufacturers. Canada’s military industries provide an incredibly diverse range of products and services, largely for export. While some manufacture complete weapons systems, like small arms, air-to-ground missiles (including cluster bombs) and armoured vehicles, most are in the business of selling high-tech components for assembly into US weapons systems. Although many recognize Canada as a bastion of high-technology, what remains hidden from public awareness is the role this sector plays in providing components for the world’s deadliest, major weapons systems.
A recent report by Ottawa’s Coalition to Oppose the Arms Trade (COAT) exposes Canadian complicity in equipping American warplanes and attack helicopters used by Israel. For example,