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Canada set to spend up to $5 billion on armed drones for 'pinpoint strikes'

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Whistleblower Daniel Hale. Image: Video still from democracynow.org

On July 27, Daniel Hale, a 33-year-old former United States Air Force signals intelligence analyst who helped locate targets for drone strikes when he was deployed in Afghanistan, was sentenced to 45 months in prison for leaking classified information in 2013-14 exposing the U.S. drone and targeted assassination program.

The Intercept has reported: "By some estimates, U.S. drone operations abroad, conducted by both the military and the CIA, have killed between 9,000 and 17,000 people since 2004, including as many as 2,200 children and multiple U.S. citizens."

Hale has stated that the U.S. military has a practice of labeling all individuals killed in drone strikes as "enemies killed in action" unless proven otherwise. He highlighted: "With drone warfare, sometimes nine out of 10 people killed are innocent."

Echoing this, Edward Snowden tweeted: "His crime was telling this truth: 90 [per cent] of those killed by US drones are bystanders, not the intended targets."

Meanwhile, the Canadian government is set to request bids this fall from two consortiums for a contract of up to $5 billion to build armed drones for the Canadian military. It is believed the air force intends to purchase 12 armed drones.

In August 2020, Vice reported: "In 2015, not long after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was elected, Ottawa signalled interest in purchasing armed drones."

In May, The Canadian Press reported: "The government and military say the unmanned aircraft will be used for surveillance and intelligence gathering as well as delivering pinpoint strikes from the air on enemy forces in places where the use of force has been approved."

The Calgary Herald has also noted: "The contract is expected to be awarded in 2022-23, with the first system delivery anticipated in 2024-25." The Canadian Press adds: "[There are] plans to establish a central hub in Ottawa where pilots will fly the drones."

Given the violence inflicted against innocents by armed drones, and the need for billions to be spent on green jobs, water bombers, affordable housing and more, this planned purchase is expected to come to the fore of activist mobilizations in the coming months.

Brent Patterson is an activist and writer.

Image: Video still from Democracy Now!

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