Canada has exported more than $30 million in “military goods” to Indonesia over the past five years

Published by Brent Patterson on

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This year’s CANSEC arms show is expected to attract 280+ exhibitors, 50+ international delegations, and “600+ VIPS, generals, top military & government officials”. “74% of attendees have purchasing power”. Photo from CANSEC 2022 by Koozma J. Tarasoff.

Over the last five years, Canada has exported more than $30 million in “military goods” to Indonesia (2017- $3,089,576.20; 2018-$5,788,853.43; 2019-$2,738,360.44; 2020-$8,176,217.40; 2021-$10,708,499.85).

This continues despite concerning reports from Amnesty International.

Amnesty has documented: “Authorities repeatedly used excessive force to break up protests, including by local communities protesting against mining operations [in 2022]. The crackdown on political dissent in Papua and West Papua provinces continued.”

It also notes: “Security forces committed unlawful killings, including in Papua and West Papua, largely with impunity.”

This situation has been ongoing.

In 2017, Human Rights Watch reported: “Impunity for the security forces in the provinces of Papua and West Papua also remains a serious problem and dozens of Papuans remain imprisoned for nonviolent expression of their political views.”

In November 2022, through the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) process at the United Nations, Canada recommended that Indonesia: “Investigate allegations of human rights violations in Indonesian Papua, and prioritize the protection of civilians, including women and children.”

Canadian arms sales to Indonesia

Maclean’s magazine has reported: “The example of arms sales to Indonesia curiously shows both a greater Canadian willingness to sell and the limits to that willingness.”

“Indonesia notoriously invaded the former Portuguese colony of East Timor in 1975, with more than 100,000 Timorese perishing under the subsequent military occupation. From 1975 to 1991, Canada nonetheless was willing to sell arms to Indonesia.”

That article adds: “In 1991, a massacre in East Timor prompted Barbara McDougall, foreign minister in Brian Mulroney’s Progressive Conservative government, to impose an arms embargo. …Arms sales to Indonesia resumed as Jean Chrétien’s government embraced Indonesia, but there was increasing dissent within the Department of Foreign Affairs about it. …In September 1999, after extensive public pressure, foreign minister Lloyd Axworthy imposed an arms embargo as pro-Indonesia militia groups killed, forcibly relocated and terrorized the Timorese population.”

It’s not clear when that embargo implemented in 1999 was subsequently lifted, but Canada has exported $31,021,357.46 (adding in $519,850.14 in 2016) in military goods, since Justin Trudeau became prime minister in November 2015.

Trade talks in Ottawa, May 29

Global Affairs Canada has noted: “On June 20, 2021, Canada and Indonesia launched negotiations towards a Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA). …Four rounds of negotiations have taken place…  A fifth round of negotiations is scheduled to take place between May 29-June 2, 2023 in Ottawa.”

In March 2022, after the first round of talks were completed, the Ottawa-based Canadian Centre for Police Alternatives (CCPA) posted: “According to the CEPA negotiating objectives tabled in Parliament last year, Canada hopes furthermore to include a controversial investment protection chapter in the CEPA. This chapter would grant Canadian oil, gas and mining firms, which hold over 90% of the value of all Canadian investment in Indonesia, extraordinary rights to sue the Indonesian government over measures to ensure human rights are respected and the environment protected.”

The CCPA adds: “In early 2021, for example, the Indonesian government granted a large gold and silver mining concession covering half the island of Sangihe to Canadian-owned Baru Gold Corporation. This project has been criticized by environmentalists for threatening pristine rainforests, at least 10 species of bird and the island’s freshwater supply. A CEPA with Indonesia that includes an investor-state dispute settlement would tilt the scales in this and other mining struggles in the interest of profit-driven mining firms over community and environmental interests.”

In November 2022, a CBC article highlighted that the Trudeau government’s “Indo-Pacific strategy will include new investments to strengthen the role the Canadian Armed Forces plays in the region…” That article adds: “While Trudeau previously spoke about expanding natural gas exports to Japan and Korea, his office said he also wants to exchange natural resources with India, Australia, Indonesia, Singapore, and Taiwan.”

Thales, BAE, Rheinmetall at CANSEC

In December 2022, the Australian alternative journal Green Left reported: “Community members gathered on December 1 to raise the West Papuan flag in the lobby of weapon’s company Thales’ office. The action was held to protest Thales’ weapons’ exports to Indonesia and call on it to recall its weapons from West Papua.”

That article adds: “Thales is one of many companies that manufacture weapons in Australia for sale to the Indonesian forces. Others include BAE Systems, Northrop Grumman, Electro Optic Systems and Rheinmetall Defence.”

Thales Canada Inc. (booth 1701), BAE Systems (713) and Rheinmetall Canada Inc. (1121/3021) will be at CANSEC 2023 in Ottawa.

Protest at CANSEC, May 31

For more on the protest planned against the CANSEC arms show, weapons exports and their link to human rights violations, click here.


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