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Sale of Canada's Leading Satellite Developer Not Ethical: Engineer


An optical engineer in B.C. is urging Ottawa to block the sale of Canada's leading satellite developer - MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates Ltd. - charging that the American buyer makes weaponry that kills people.0118 08

Paul Cottle, 31, resigned last week from his job of three years after the Richmond-based company announced it was selling its satellite and space division to Alliant Techsystems of Minnesota (ATK) for $1.325 billion, he told CBC News on Wednesday.

The sale has prompted other engineers at the B.C.-based company to consider quitting, CBC News has learned.

MDA developed the Canadarm, a remotely operated appendage on the space shuttle, as well as the RADARSAT 1 and 2 cutting-edge satellites.

Cottle said he and hundreds of co-workers were faced with a critical choice when the company's CEO announced the sale during a meeting last Tuesday.
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"As soon as I heard the announcement, I knew I couldn't work for them anymore," he told CBC News. "I didn't even have to hear the end of the speech. I already knew about ATK.

"ATK is a company that produces weaponry that kills people indiscriminately - soldiers and civilians alike," Cottle said.

"Part of the reason I came to Canada was to avoid having my tax dollars go to support companies like ATK," the American said.

ATK derives more than half of its $4 billion US in annual revenue from military contracts, including cluster bombs, depleted uranium rounds and landmines.

In December 1997, a total of 122 governments signed the Mine Ban Treaty in Ottawa - the most comprehensive international instrument for ridding the world of anti-personnel mines.

Lloyd Axworthy, the foreign minister when Canada signed the Ottawa protocol, said he believes the sale contravenes the provisions of that treaty.

"It [ATK] is a major arms merchant that is creating some of the dirtiest weapons in the world," Axworthy said Wednesday.

"The transfer of public money into a company making landmines is clearly banned under the treaty so this would be a clear case of non-compliance," he said.

Federal Industry Minister Jim Prentice, who will have to review the sale, declined an interview with CBC News. His spokesperson said Prentice will review the sale based on whether it's good for Canada.

Interview requests to both MDA and ATK were also rejected Wednesday.

In a written statement, MDA said "its practice is to act in full compliance with any Canadian laws and the laws of any country we do business with," adding that the sale of its space division is in the best interest of its employees.

ATK replied in an e-mail, saying the mines it currently provides to NATO and its allies comply with the treaty.

Referring to its landmines, ATK said: "Any systems that are provided internationally will be Ottawa-convention compliant.

"These self-destruct mines, which also have a self-deactivation feature to insure they are rendered safe, are used only in combat," said the statement by Brian Cullin, senior vice-president of ATK corporate communications.

Cottle, who's now looking for work, said he hopes the industry minister will consider the ethics of this sale when Ottawa conducts its review.

© 2008 CBC News

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