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Trade show for war: SOFEX and Canada's arms industry

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Photo: flickr/UK Ministry of Defence

Nearly every industry has a trade show. There are car shows, boat shows, electronic shows and comic book shows too. There are even trade shows for war!

The shadowy world of the international arms industry will be on prominent display at the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan's 10th biannual Special Operations Forces Exhibition and Conference in Amman, May 6 to 8, 2014.

Leading arms manufacturers and military personnel around the world will descend upon the King Abdullah I Airbase to buy and sell the latest weaponry.

Canada is one of the top five countries whose arms companies will be showcased at SOFEX 2014. With 16 exhibitors, Canada is sending more gun nuts to Jordan than Russia and China combined!

The Conservative government's full-on offensive to sell weapons and military hardware to foreign nations using Canada's diplomatic and political engine is paying off with major contracts. But it is also seeding apprehension in senior observers, and critics say it represents an increasingly cavalier attitude toward human rights, says Carl Meyer in "Canada's diverse drive to sell more weapons abroad."

Some companies are largely benign, like Logistik Unicorp, which manages uniform programs for government and corporate clients globally. Chateau Marketing Consultants Inc., similarly, provides governments with defence and security technologies for government websites. Indeed, there is little difference between them and companies like the GAP or IBM.

Others, like General Dynamics Land Systems-Force Protection, produce strictly militarized equipment, such as their mine-resistant, ambush protected fighting vehicles, used by the U.S. in Iraq.

At least two Canadian exhibitors, however, have a sketchy track record, and are known to break the rules.

One has a history of supplying drones to anti-government insurgents in North Africa, while the other has broken UN sanctions to sell luxury toys to North Korea's despotic regime.

Looking to avoid controversy, Aeryon Labs says it is looking to expand its market share beyond the military, while it downplays its role in supplying drones to rebels in Libya. The company now claims to be refocusing its sales towards the energy sector, seeing it as "a growth area, as sensor-equipped drones offer a safe, low-cost way to inspect" pipelines and smokestacks.

Bombardier Recreational Products, on the other hand, manufactures Ski-Doo snow mobiles for North Korea's new luxury ski resort, in violation of UN sanctions on the trade of luxury goods to the despotic regime.

The lack of scruples the company displays, by selling luxury goods to the most totalitarian nation on earth, is indicative of the industry SOFEX 2014 promotes.

Why should an industry that profits from war and murder concern itself with the human rights abuses of the North Korean leadership? Why wouldn't Aeryon Labs expand its market share to the energy sector if it's profitable? And why wouldn't Canada be proud to promote these companies as its own, as the Harper government does?

Oh, that's right: because we have established international laws and protocols to protect people from the abuses of rogue governments who oppress their populous and the shady network of arms dealers who arm them.

One such protocol is the Arms Trade Treaty, which will regulate the international trade in conventional weapons, from light arms to battle tanks, fighter jets and warships.

Though 118 countries have signed the treaty, including the United States, Prime Minister Stephen Harper refuses to sign Canada's name to the list of global leaders and international peacemakers.

This is why Canadians are not proud to promote our military industrial complex: our government is actively flouting international law and making the world more dangerous in order to spike the profit shares of international arms contractors.

The Harper government values the merchants of death who celebrate events like SOFEX more than they care about international law or human rights. They antagonize the Canadian public who disapprove of this irresponsible foreign policy. They bulldoze or silence critics who protest such criminality.

It's high time Canadians stand up to this abuse of power, this abuse of the Maple Leaf. It's time Canadians say: no more to war; no more to international arms contractors; and no more to Mr. Harper!

Photo: flickr/UK Ministry of Defence

Celyn Dufay is an activist working with the Donor Service Officer with Ceasefire.ca. Last year Celyn organized Ceasefire.ca's "Louder than the Bomb" campaign to abolish nuclear weapons, an action endorsed by over 100 parliamentarians, and the student led ‘white poppy' campaign "I Remember for Peace." Ceasefire.ca is a network of 25,000 Canadians who want Canada to be a global peace leader, and is a project of the Rideau Institute.

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