Canada exports $25.6 million in “military goods” to United Arab Emirates as repressive regime set to host COP28 climate change conference

Published by Brent Patterson on

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Photo: The UAE Ministry of Defence delegation at CANSEC in 2019.

On May 31, the same day that 100+ activists worked to blockade the annual CANSEC arms show in Ottawa, Global Affairs Canada released its report on the export of Canadian “military goods” for 2022. That report showed that Canada had exported $25.6 million in military goods to the United Arab Emirates last year.

Video: Democracy Now! coverage of protest against CANSEC.

Over the last five years, Canada’s military exports to the United Arab Emirates have totaled more than $115.47 million. Previous Global Affairs Canada reports show $3,070,851.22 (2021), $24,818,351.43 (2020), $36,641,736.02 (2019) and $25,337,956.77 (2018).

This follows the February 2018 article by David Pugliese in the Ottawa Citizen that 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.”

The Canadian Commercial Corporation is a Crown corporation (government-owned enterprise) “that offers international contracting expertise to forge commercial contracts between Canadian businesses and foreign governments”.

It is accountable to the Parliament of Canada through Mary Ng, the Minister of International Trade, Export Promotion, Small Business and Economic Development.

Photo: Ng at the Canada-UAE Business Council in March 2022 in Dubai.

These exports of “military goods” continue to happen despite Amnesty International documenting that in 2022: “The United Arab Emirates (UAE) put into effect new laws that significantly curtail freedom of expression and assembly. The authorities extended the arbitrary detention of tens of mass trial victims past the end of their prison terms, and subjected one human rights defender and one dissident to extended ill-treatment. The government renewed its stance against recognizing the rights of refugees.”

Human Rights Watch has also highlighted that in 2021: “The UAE continued to develop its surveillance capabilities, both online and through mass facial recognition surveillance in public spaces. New reports emerged of UAE authorities misusing Israeli spyware to gain access to the private and encrypted communications of journalists, activists, and world leaders.”

And the Washington, DC-based Freedom House, a US government-funded human rights group, describes the UAE as “not free”.

Military sector and climate change

Dr. Angelika Claußen, Co-Chair of the German section of IPPNW (International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War/Physicians in Social Responsibility, has written: “Globally, the military sector is estimated to generate around six per cent of all CO2 emissions.”

She adds: “According to a study by Neta Crawford, co-director of the Costs of War project at Brown University, the US defence ministry alone is a bigger contributor to the climate crisis than individual countries such as Sweden or Portugal. This makes it the largest institutional source of greenhouse gases in the world.”

Every year Canada exports about $1 billion in military goods to the US.

UAE to host COP28, November 30 to December 12

The Guardian has reported: “[The COP28 climate change conference] will take place in Dubai, hosted by the United Arab Emirates, a leading oil and gas producer. And the official chosen to preside over the summit – Sultan Al Jaber – is the chief executive of the country’s national oil company, Adnoc, which is planning a big expansion of production capacity.”

A joint statement signed by many human rights organizations has noted: “Civil society groups fear that the severe restrictions imposed by the UAE authorities in recent years will hinder the full and meaningful participation of journalists, activists, human rights defenders, civil society, youth groups, and indigenous peoples’ representatives at COP28.”

That letter calls for an “end restrictions on civic space and uphold the rights to freedom of expression, association, and peaceful assembly to enable meaningful participation of civil society and indigenous peoples at COP28.”

This past November, Canadian author Naomi Klein tweeted: “Now is the time to decide not to do this all over again next year, when the summit will be in the UAE. Of all places. Civil society should announce a boycott + instead hold a true people’s summit. One gathering per continent to limit flying. Links to the official summit by video.”

We continue to follow this with concern.

Further reading: No Critical Press: The Breach barred from weapons show for ‘critical anti-war journalism’ (The Breach, May 31, 2023).

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