What countries came to CANSEC to buy weapons?

Published by Brent Patterson on

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Photo by Koozma J. Tarasoff.

What countries were buying weapons at the CANSEC arms show in Ottawa this past week?

We can confirm the United Kingdom, Israel and Qatar were there.

And we know Argentina, Bahrain, Chile, Colombia, Kuwait, Mexico, Peru, and Saudi Arabia have attended a previous CANSEC arms show.

It’s also plausible that the Philippines and the United Arab Emirates were at CANSEC.

Past buyers of Canadian military equipment may have also been there, including Brazil, Brunei, Egypt, Haiti, Indonesia, Morocco, Turkey, and Singapore.

Lack of transparency about attendance

This guess work is needed because the Canadian Association of Defence and Security Industries (CADSI), the organizers of CANSEC, aren’t saying who came.

While CADSI has boasted that 55 international delegations would be present, they have not publicly disclosed a list of those countries.

Notably, the “Participating Countries” hyperlink on the CADSI website also appears to be closed to the public.

How to piece together the list then?

UK, Qatar and Israel

CADSI may have included the United Kingdom in their count given Jeremy Quinn, the British minister of defence procurement, was a keynote speaker at the arms show.

Social media tells us that Khalid Bin Rashid Al-Mansouri, the Ambassador of the State of Qatar to Canada, visited CANSEC on June 2.

The night before CANSEC, Ronen Hoffman, the Israeli Ambassador to Canada tweeted about hosting “a pre-#CANSEC2022 reception for visiting reps. of Israeli innovative aerospace, defence and security industries” wanting “to explore opportunities for mutual collaboration between Israeli & Canadian defence companies.”

Beyond that, an older promotional video on the CADSI website shows military officers from Peru, Israel and at least one other country.

Global Affairs Canada

While we don’t know all the countries at CANSEC this year, the Exhibitors List does show that Global Affairs Canada and “Israel Representatives” had an official presence.

That list also tells us that companies including Terradyne, Bell and General Dynamics Land Systems that have sold equipment to security forces in Mexico and Colombia implicated in human rights violations were present.

We also know from an annual “Exports of Military Goods” report that Global Affairs Canada produces that Canada’s Top Twelve Non-U.S. Destinations for Military Goods and Technology in 2021 were Saudi Arabia, Japan, United Kingdom, Germany, Ukraine, France, Norway, Algeria, Australia, Israel, Sweden and Singapore.

Their report notes $2.731 billion in sales to non-U.S. countries, including those above, as well as Brazil, Brunei, Colombia, Egypt, Haiti, Indonesia, Kuwait, Mexico, Morocco, Turkey, and the United Arab Emirates among many other countries last year.

Canadian Commercial Corporation

The Canadian Commercial Corporation, the Ottawa-based federal government agency that promotes exports, was also present at CANSEC, but did not post a media release with information about who they met with.

This is different from May 2014 when they issued a media release highlighting: “At CANSEC 2014, CCC led eight foreign delegations visiting from Argentina, Bahrain, Chile, Colombia, Kuwait, Mexico, Peru, and Saudi Arabia.”

We also note that the CCC has a webpage dedicated to Selling to the U.S. Military.

And just four year ago, in February 2018, David Pugliese of the Ottawa Citizen reported: “Canadian defence industry representatives have praised the Canadian Commercial Corporation for its efforts in selling military equipment around the world and have pointed out it was now focused on boosting arms sales to the United Arab Emirates.”

That article highlighted that the Canadian Commercial Corporation had just brokered the sale of 16 combat helicopters to the Philippines and noted the ongoing deal with Saudi Arabia for light armoured vehicles (LAVs).

Later that same year, Pugliese also reported: “The Canadian Commercial Corporation acknowledges it conducts no follow-up to ensure exported Canadian-built equipment isn’t being used to abuse human rights.”

$6 billion in exports

CADSI boasts that Canadian defence and security companies generate $10 billion in annual revenues of which roughly 60 per cent come from exports.

And yet the lack of public transparency makes any scrutiny of the human rights records of the countries attending CANSEC unduly challenging.

This coming week we will be trying to reach the CADSI contact for international delegations, as well as the Canadian Commercial Corporation and Global Affairs Canada Trade Commissioner representatives who were at CANSEC to see if they are willing to tell us more about what countries were at CANSEC this year.

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