Ontario companies export armoured vehicles to police forces implicated in human rights violations

Published by Brent Patterson on

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Photo: Roshel Inc., an Ontario-based company trying to export its armoured vehicles to Israel, will be an exhibitor at the CANSEC arms show in Ottawa, May 29-30.

There are human rights concerns about how some armoured vehicles manufactured in Ontario are used by security forces around the world.

The human rights considerations can also include the sale of these vehicles despite concerns about the countries they are being sold to, the active promotion by Canadian officials of armoured vehicle sales, and the absence of monitoring of how they are being used/misused.

This can be further complicated by the general lack of transparency and accountability with the sale of “military goods”.

While a fuller study is needed, we look at a few examples related to the sale of Canadian-manufactured armoured vehicles to police forces (while acknowledging concerns about armoured vehicles sold to militaries).

Brampton-based Roshel Inc. and Israel

The CBC has reported that Roshel Inc. is seeking a permit to sell armoured vehicles to Israel.

The company has told the CBC: “It is our understanding that these vehicles are not to be used for military purposes, but solely for domestic police operations. This has been communicated to the government of Canada.”

While Roshel is seeking to reassure with their statement, Amnesty International highlighted in June 2021: “Israeli police have committed a catalogue of violations against Palestinians in Israel and occupied East Jerusalem, carrying out a discriminatory repressive campaign including sweeping mass arrests, using unlawful force against peaceful protesters, and subjecting detainees to torture and other ill-treatment, during and after the armed hostilities in Israel and Gaza.”

Newmarket-based Terradyne Armored Vehicles Inc. and Mexico

Still from Vanguardia video of Terradyne armoured vehicle used by the Saltillo Operational Reaction Group (GROMS).

Terradyne has highlighted that it had sold its vehicles to the Nuevo Leon police in Mexico. It has also sold its Gurkha RPV vehicles to the Veracruz Fuerza Civil (civil force) and its MPV to the Ministry of Public Security in Ciudad Guadalupe, Nuevo.

Amnesty International reported in 2016 that “Mexican police and armed forces routinely torture and ill-treat women, and that sexual violence is routine during arrest and interrogation.”

In 2020, Human Rights Watch also noted: “The abusive behavior of Mexico’s police forces is the result of multiple factors, including systematic impunity, lack of clarity and enforcement around regulations limiting police use of force, widespread corruption and intimidation by organized crime, and decades of institutional abandonment.”

Midland-based Streit Manufacturing Inc. and Mexico

Photo by Voices in Movement and Infobae photo of Streit Group-manufactured Spartan armoured vehicle.

On February 3, 2023, La Jornada reported: “Riot police evicted with tear gas about 100 students from the Mactumactzá rural normal school, who demonstrated in the center of Tuxtla Gutiérrez to demand the hiring of 33 workers for that school.”

A student told La Jornada: “First the municipal police harassed us and then the grenadiers arrived. Then came one of the tankettes from which they launch tear gas. …We condemned the eviction because we were not doing anything, we were peaceful.”

While it needs to be verified, an examination of the news photo shows similarities between the “tankette” and the Streit-manufactured Spartan.

Toronto-based INKAS and Haiti

Photo: Inkas armoured vehicles in Haiti.

The CBC has reported: “Toronto-based INKAS signed a contract to deliver 18 armoured vehicles to Haiti [in 2022]. The contracted delivery date was subsequently extended to the last day of 2022. But by that date, only six of the MRAPs had been delivered. Since then, three more have been transported to the island by the Canadian Air Force. Half of the contract remains unfulfilled.”

While the focus of the CBC article is on how “Haitian police will have to wait even longer for the vehicles they desperately need to protect their dwindling force from Haiti’s ruthless and well-armed gangs”, even the US State Department has noted concerns about the Haitian National Police (HNP) beating and abusing detainees and suspects, poor training, lack of professionalism, rogue elements with alleged gang connections, instances of police brutality and widespread impunity.

INKAS and Colombia

Photo: Colombian police use what appears to be a Toronto-based INKAS-manufactured armoured vehicle to stop buses of delegates travelling to Cali for a popular assembly related to the national strike on July 17, 2021.

In 2014, the Ottawa Citizen published an INKAS media release about the sale of four Huron tactical attack and defense vehicles to the Colombian police.

In April 2015, PLANT also reported: “The manufacturer is still building behemoth armoured personnel carriers (APCs). In fact, there’s a tendered order for 26 of its Huron vehicles, at about $450,000 a pop, for the National Police of Columbia.”

That article adds: “The Huron will be outfitted with a cannon to wrangle unruly rioters with foam, tear gas, dyes and water.”

During the National Strike in 2021, Amnesty International and other human rights organizations documented numerous instances of violence and repression by the Colombian police and the ESMAD riot police.

PBI-Canada has asked if Canadian-made armoured vehicles were involved in this police repression.

Our Access to Information Request revealed an October 14, 2021, email stating: “Officials from BGOTA [the Embassy of Canada in Colombia] asked the Colombian National Police (CNP) whether these armoured vehicles were being used in response to the social protests that began in late April. [Police] officials responded that no Canadian armoured vehicle was being used for such a purpose.”

This is not a credible verification process.

Then following an estimated 9-line redacted paragraph, the email says: “The vehicles are not being used by ESMAD” followed by another redacted line.

Armoured vehicles and Sudan, Azerbaijan, Saudi Arabia, Peru, Uganda

There are also media reports noting concerns about Streit-manufactured armoured vehicles sold to the “Sudan Police” (The Globe and Mail, September 2016), INKAS sales to Azerbaijan (Radio Canada International, July 2017), the Terradyne-manufactured Gurkha armoured vehicle that killed civilians during a “security operation” in Saudi Arabia (The Canadian Press, July 2018), the sale of London, Ontario-based General Dynamics Land Systems armoured vehicles in the context of repression by security forces against Indigenous-led protests in Peru (The Maple, December 2023), as well as a Streit manufacturing plant in Uganda that would sell to their security forces (The Globe and Mail, November 2022).

An unknown Ontario company and Israel

Most recently, The Maple reported: “In January, $680,312 worth of goods were exported from Ontario to Israel under the ‘armoured fighting’ vehicle category… Stat Can’s export data does not reveal the identity of the end user or users in Israel, or precise details about the goods being sold, including the quantity of units.”

Other armoured vehicle companies

Photo: A Honduran National Police operation in Comayagua with Black Mamba Sandcat vehicles.

This is not to suggest that only Ontario-based companies manufacture armoured vehicles exported to police forces with records of human rights violations.

Last month, The Rio Times reported: “Honduras recently added two Black Mamba APC SandCat armored vehicles to its National Police. These form the first part of a fleet of ten, aiming to increase police safety and efficiency.”

Its functions are to include “riot control”, “demonstrations”, and “internal security operations”.

While it has been reported that the armoured vehicles were manufactured by TPS Armouring in Mexico, SandCat is also an armoured vehicle associated with the Israeli company Plasan.

Armoured vehicles and CANSEC, May 29-30

Roshel Defence Solution will be at Booth 1321 at the CANSEC arms show this spring at the EY Centre in Ottawa. General Dynamic will also be there (in various booths, including 1301). Terradyne and INKAS have also previously displayed their armoured vehicles at CANSEC.

We continue to follow this.

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