"Once weapons were manufactured to fight wars. Now wars are manufactured to sell weapons," Arundhati Roy has stated.
That's important to keep in mind with the CANSEC arms trade show taking place this coming May 29 to 30 at the EY Centre in Ottawa.
CANSEC is an annual "trade show," promoted as "North America's largest tri-lateral defence event," that draws "600 VIPs, generals, top military and government officials," "over 5,000 Government of Canada representatives," and "over 40 delegations from around the world."
Canada is no small player in the weapons trade.
In June 2016, The Globe and Mail reported that Canada was the second-biggest arms dealer to the Middle East and the sixth biggest arms exporter in the world.
In 2017, according to Global Affairs Canada, Canada's exports of "military goods and technology" to other countries amounted to about $1.031 billion.
Our pension dollars are also going into weapons manufacturing.
The Coalition to Oppose the Arms Trade (COAT) notes, "The [Canada Pension Plan] is now investing $1.3 billion in 36 of the world's top 100 war industries." It adds that this investment portfolio includes about 30 corporations that have exhibits at the CANSEC arms trade show.
Canada also spends a lot on the military.
In 2017, that spending was $20.6 billion a year and by 2026-27, the Trudeau government wants to increase that to $32.7 billion a year. That's a lot of jet fuel and gas for LAVs and assorted military vehicles.
But significantly, as Vice reported in 2017, "Canada doesn't count greenhouse gas emissions for any overseas operations conducted by its military. That's right, any of them. Army, navy, air force."
And yet the connection to climate breakdown is inescapable.
In December 2015, Newsweek reported, "The Iraq war was responsible for 141m tonnes of carbon releases in its first four years, according to an Oil Change International report. On an annual basis, this was more than the emissions from 139 countries in this period, or about the same as putting an extra 25 million cars on to U.S. roads for a year."
And the Transnational Institute (TNI) has reported, "The U.S. Department of Defense consumed about 117 million barrels of oil in 2011."
It adds, "The military is not just a prolific user of oil, it is one of the central pillars of the global fossil-fuel economy."
A different way forward
The World Economic Forum has noted, "Arms sales of the world's 100 largest arms-producing and military services companies totalled $398.2 billion in 2017." It adds that this "marks the third consecutive year of growth" in arms sales. And TNI notes that overall global military expenditures reached $1.8 trillion in 2014.
The Leap Manifesto calls for "Cuts to military spending."
And the U.K.-based Campaign Against Arms Trade has an "Arms to renewables" campaign that says money now spent on subsidizing the arms industry would be better spent on renewables and that in turn would be better for workers, the economy and world peace.
Imagine if one day we were able to say that the factories that once built weapons for manufactured wars now build solar panels, wind turbines, electric vehicles, and high-speed rail and public transit powered by renewables.
A demonstration that challenges the CANSEC trade show this coming May 29 to 30 in Ottawa will be an opportunity for activists from numerous movements to come together to call for an economy based on green jobs not carbon bombs.
Brent Patterson is a political activist and writer.
Twitter photo by Tim McSorley.
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