Canada is exporting $1 billion in “military goods” to the U.S. every year, some of that could then be sent to Latin America

Published by Brent Patterson on

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Photo: Members of the Guatemalan Inter-Agency Border Unit. Photo from Military Times.

Kelsey Gallagher from Project Ploughshares has reported: “On May 31, 2022, the Canadian government tabled the 2021 Exports of Military Goods report, providing details on reported Canadian arms exports and brokering of military goods for that year. The total value of these exports was the second highest in history: $2.73-billion.”

Gallagher then highlights: “Most exports bound for the United States were not included, even though the U.S. is a major importer of Canadian weapons.”

He further notes: “Typically, more than half of all Canada’s weapons exports each year go to the United States.”

In 2016, CBC reported: “Global Affairs show that Canada had a banner year in 2012, exporting more than $1 billion in ‘military goods and technology.’ That number dropped to about $680 million in 2013. …Ploughshares estimates that the Canadian industry likely exports arms worth between $2 billion and $3 billion per year when the U.S. is included.”

The Canadian Association of Defence and Security Industries (CADSI) has also suggested that Canadian military exports to the U.S. total about $1 billion a year.

What is being exported?

Gallagher has also previously noted: “[Arms sales to our southern neighbour] include both the primary armaments used in conflict, such as firearms, munitions, and combat vehicles; and the critical supports, services, parts, and components that keep the U.S. military operational.”

What exports are now counted?

Ploughshares has also noted that the Report on the Export of Military Goods produced by the Canadian government only reports the financial value of ECL [Export Control List] Groups 2-1 through 2-4 to the United States. This includes “automatic weapons with a calibre of 12.7 mm or less”, “weapons or armament with a calibre greater than 12.7 mm”, “ammunition” and “bombs, torpedoes, rockets, missiles, other explosive devices and charges”.

In 2021, the total value of all reported exports to the United States was $133.8-million, just over 10 per cent of the estimated amount of Canada’s total military exports to the U.S.

Ploughshares recommends that Canada should “begin a full reporting of the transfer of military goods, including parts and components, to the United States.”

Exported again?

The CBC also explains: “Kenneth Epps, a policy adviser at Ploughshares Project [says] most of what Canada produces [is] component parts of larger weapons systems, both hardware and software. …When the government grants an export permit for military equipment it can be incorporated into a larger weapons system and exported again.”

Notably, Canadian military exports to the U.S. do not even require a permit. Christyn Cianfarani, the president of CADSI (the association that organizes CANSEC) has stated: “Requiring export permits for Canadian defence goods purchased by the U.S. government would put at risk at least $1 billion per year in Canadian defence industry business.”

Military equipment to Guatemala

In October 2022, Rights Action posted: “Amidst an intensifying crackdown on human rights defenders, journalists, and judicial sector workers in Guatemala, the US handed over $4.4 million worth of military equipment to the Guatemalan Army.”

It adds: “On October 13, at the Mariscal Zavala base, the US Ambassador William Popp oversaw the donation of 95 tactical vehicles to the Guatemalan Army.”

Rights Action has also reported: “[In October 2021] US-donated jeeps were used to intimidate Indigenous human rights defenders from El Estor. President Giammattei had declared martial law following a protest against an illegal mine that continues to harm the environment and local communities.”

U.S. “security assistance”

Then in November 2022, Sandra Cuffe reported in Aljazeera: “Between the US Departments of Defense and State, the US provided more than $66m in security assistance to Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras from 2017 through 2021.”

In addition, U.S. aid to the military/police in Colombia was $235 million in 2022 (and $2.375 billion over the previous 10 years) and about $3 billion to security forces in Mexico from 2007 to 2020 (as noted in this March 2021 U.S. Government Accountability Office report).

In June 2021, The Intercept reported: “The current iteration of disappearances in Mexico is linked to former President Felipe Calderón’s 2006 deployment of thousands of troops into the streets in a supposed war on drug trafficking organizations. The following year, the Bush administration threw its support behind the campaign through the Mérida Initiative, a security program that to date has provided more than $3.3 billion in assistance to Mexico.”

Ability to address “misuse”?

CADSI president Cianfarani has asserted: “We must remember that [Canadian exported military] goods cannot leave the United States without passing through the American export regime — International Traffic in Arms — which, like ours, is one of the world’s toughest.”

But Cuffe notes: “The United States lacks concrete policies to properly document and address alleged misuse of its military equipment donations in Central America, a new government report has found, fuelling concerns that potential abuses will continue to go unchecked.”

We remain concerned about the implications of this ongoing situation.

Further reading: Members of Congress Call to Halt U.S. Military and Police Aid to Central America (CISPES, May 2022) and What support does Canada provide to the Honduran military and police? (PBI-Canada, October 2021).

Protest CANSEC, May 31

For information on the popular mobilization against CANSEC that will note concerns about Canadian arms exports to the U.S., please click here.

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