Activists block the CANSEC weapons show in Ottawa, call on companies to stop profiting from war and repression

Published by Brent Patterson on

A “Lockheed Martin, Stop Selling War Machines” banner helps block arms dealers, government officials and the military from CANSEC. Photo by Koozma J. Tarasoff.

As more than 100 activists blocked the entrances to the parking lots of the CANSEC weapons show in Ottawa on May 31, traffic was snarled for a distance on Uplands Avenue and the Airport Parkway delaying many attendees getting inside the EY Centre.

Photo by Koozma J. Tarasoff.

Canada’s Defence Minister Anita Anand, who was scheduled to speak at 7:50 am, tweeted at 9:51 am that she had “just delivered [her] remarks”. There was also a tweet at 9:17 am that suggests she was just then “officially open[ing] the event”.

After Anand’s speech, U.S. Ambassador David L. Cohen visited the booth of Lockheed Martin, the world’s largest weapons company.

Twitter photo of Ambassador Cohen (right) at the Lockheed Martin booth.

In the article 20 companies profiting the most from war, USA Today ranked the Bethesda, Maryland-based Lockheed Martin at the top of their list with $2 billion in profit from $44.9 billion in arms sales in 2017.

Photo by Koozma J. Tarasoff.

And in an “earnings call” in January 2022, just prior to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Lockheed Martin CEO James Taiclet said expectantly that the “renewed great power competition” would lead to inflated defense budgets and additional sales.

The company’s stock soared nearly 25 per cent in the first quarter of that year. By the end of 2022, Lockheed Martin had recorded $5.7 billion in profit.

This creates the concern that there is an economic incentive for Lockheed Martin for the war to continue despite the deaths of more than 240,000 people in Ukraine and Russia.

“An apparent war crime”

Human Rights Watch has also described the Saudi Arabia-led coalition airstrike that killed 40 children and wounded another 56 children in Yemen in August 2018 as “an apparent war crime”. CNN has established that it was a Lockheed Martin-made 500-pound laser-guided MK 82 bomb that killed the children.

Photo by Koozma J. Tarasoff.

Defund warplanes

Minister Anand also announced in February 2022 that Canada had signed a contract to pay $19 billion to Lockheed Martin for 88 F-35 stealth fighter jets.

The actual overall cost to Canadians of this purchase has been estimated to be $76.8 billion (diverting crucial funds from needed social programs).

And while the Government of Canada announced in April 2022 that it would increase its military budget by $8 billion, Ambassador Cohen commented the following month: “It’s fair to say that though $8 billion is more money, it was a little disappointing as matched against the rhetoric that we heard leading into the release of the budget.”

Photo from CADSI Twitter of Ambassador Cohen (right) and Minister Anand.

The Canadian Association of Defence and Security Industries (CADSI), the organizers of the CANSEC weapons show, have additionally argued against export permits for the sale of Canadian “military goods” to the United States, stating that “would put at risk at least $1 billion per year in Canadian defence industry business.”

Given the lack of transparency in these sales and the likelihood of Canadian-made weapons and components then being exported by the U.S. as “security assistance” to countries implicated in serious human rights violations, there is cause for further concern.

For instance, despite well-documented human rights violations, the U.S. provides $40 million in “security assistance” annually to Peru.

While Canada has sold more than $2.4 million in military goods to Peru over the past five years, we don’t know how much more may have been sent via the “security assistance” provided through the United States.

Photo by World Beyond War.

Peace Brigades International has previously stated that “the dominant security discourse associated with the militarization of societies is a setback. Billions more spent on weapons will not make the world safer.”

Palestinian journalist Shireen Abu Akleh killed by Israel Defence Forces to be remembered at Stop CANSEC protest in Ottawa (May 28, 2023)

For more, please also see this World Beyond War report and The Breach barred from weapons show for ‘critical anti-war journalism’.

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