rabble blogs are the personal pages of some of Canada's most insightful progressive activists and commentators. All opinions belong to the writer; however, writers are expected to adhere to our guidelines. We welcome new bloggers -- contact us for details.

The Canada Pension Plan is making a killing on war production

Please chip in to support more articles like this. Support rabble.ca for as little as $5 per month!

Eurofighter Typhoon F-2000A. Image: Andrea Graziadio​/Flickr

On April 14, The Guardian reported that BAE Systems sold 15 billion pounds (about CAD $26.3 billion) in arms and services to the Saudi military during the last five years.

That article quotes Andrew Smith of the U.K.-based Campaign Against the Arms Trade (CAAT) who says, "The last five years have seen a brutal humanitarian crisis for the people of Yemen, but for BAE it's been business as usual. The war has only been possible because of arms companies and complicit governments willing to support it."

Pension plans appear to play a role too.

The Ottawa-based Coalition to Oppose the Arms Trade (COAT) has noted that the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board (CPPIB) had $9 million invested in BAE Systems in 2015 and $33 million in 2017/2018. With respect to the $9-million figure, World Beyond War has noted, "this is an investment in the UK BAE, none in the US subsidiary."

These figures also indicate that CPPIB investments in BAE increased after Saudi Arabia began its airstrikes against Yemen in March 2015.

The Guardian adds, "Thousands of civilians have been killed since the civil war in Yemen began in March 2015 with indiscriminate bombing by a Saudi-led coalition that is supplied by BAE and other Western arms makers. The kingdom's airforce is accused of being responsible for many of the 12,600 killed in targeted attacks."

That article also highlights, "Exports of British arms to Saudi that could have been used in Yemen were halted in the summer of 2019 when the Court of Appeal ruled that in June 2019 that no formal assessment had been made by ministers to see if the Saudi-led coalition had committed violations of international humanitarian law."

It doesn't appear that the Canadian government or the CPPIB have reflected much on international humanitarian law either.

In October 2018, Global News reported that Canadian Finance Minister Bill Morneau was questioned (by member of Parliament Charlie Angus) about the "CPPIB's holdings in a tobacco company, a military weapons manufacturer and firms that run private American prisons."

That article notes, "Morneau replied that the pension manager, which oversees more than $366 billion of CPP's net assets, lives up to the 'highest standards of ethics and behaviour.'"

At that same time, a Canada Pension Plan Investment Board spokesperson also replied, "CPPIB's objective is to seek a maximum rate of return without undue risk of loss. This singular goal means CPPIB does not screen out individual investments based on social, religious, economic or political criteria."

In April 2019, member of Parliament Alistair MacGregor noted that according to documents published in 2018, "the CPPIB also holds tens of millions of dollars in defense contractors like General Dynamics and Raytheon … "

MacGregor adds that in February 2019, he introduced "Private Member's Bill C-431 in the House of Commons, which will amend the investment policies, standards and procedures of the CPPIB to ensure that they are in line with ethical practices and labour, human, and environmental rights' considerations."

Following the October 2019 federal election, MacGregor introduced the bill again on February 26 of this year as Bill C-231. To see the two-minute video of that proposed legislation being introduced in the House, please click here

As we work to ensure that public pensions allow people to retire with peace of mind, let us be sure that isn't at the cost of peace on earth.

Brent Patterson is the executive director of Peace Brigades International-Canada. You can find him at @PBIcanada @CBrentPatterson. A version of this article also appeared on the PBI-Canada website.

Image: Andrea Graziadio​/Flickr

Thank you for reading this story…

More people are reading rabble.ca than ever and unlike many news organizations, we have never put up a paywall – at rabble we’ve always believed in making our reporting and analysis free to all, while striving to make it sustainable as well. Media isn’t free to produce. rabble’s total budget is likely less than what big corporate media spend on photocopying (we kid you not!) and we do not have any major foundation, sponsor or angel investor. Our main supporters are people and organizations -- like you. This is why we need your help. You are what keep us sustainable.

rabble.ca has staked its existence on you. We live or die on community support -- your support! We get hundreds of thousands of visitors and we believe in them. We believe in you. We believe people will put in what they can for the greater good. We call that sustainable.

So what is the easy answer for us? Depend on a community of visitors who care passionately about media that amplifies the voices of people struggling for change and justice. It really is that simple. When the people who visit rabble care enough to contribute a bit then it works for everyone.

And so we’re asking you if you could make a donation, right now, to help us carry forward on our mission. Make a donation today.


We welcome your comments! rabble.ca embraces a pro-human rights, pro-feminist, anti-racist, queer-positive, anti-imperialist and pro-labour stance, and encourages discussions which develop progressive thought. Our full comment policy can be found here. Learn more about Disqus on rabble.ca and your privacy here. Please keep in mind:


  • Tell the truth and avoid rumours.
  • Add context and background.
  • Report typos and logical fallacies.
  • Be respectful.
  • Respect copyright - link to articles.
  • Stay focused. Bring in-depth commentary to our discussion forum, babble.


  • Use oppressive/offensive language.
  • Libel or defame.
  • Bully or troll.
  • Post spam.
  • Engage trolls. Flag suspect activity instead.