Anti-war activists protest outside of CANSEC, North America's largest weapons fair, in Ottawa on June 1, 2022.

Anti-war activists protest outside of CANSEC, North America's largest weapons fair, in Ottawa on June 1, 2022. (Photo: World Beyond War)

'Shut Down This War Machine': Peace Activists Block Entrances to Major Weapons Fair in Canada

"War profiteers have blood on their hands and we are making it impossible for anyone to attend their weapons fair without directly confronting the violence and bloodshed they are complicit in."

More than a hundred anti-war campaigners traveled to Ottawa on Wednesday to protest outside of the E.Y. Center, where they obstructed access to the opening of CANSEC, North America's largest weapons and "defense industry" convention.

"The weapons companies sponsoring and exhibiting in CANSEC are raking in record billions in profits. They are the only people who win these wars."

Carrying 40-foot banners with messages such as "Blood On Your Hands," "Stop Profiting From War," and "Arms Dealers Not Welcome," peace activists blocked multiple driveways and pedestrian entrances as attendees attempted to register for and enter the meeting just before Canadian Defense Minister Anita Anand's scheduled opening keynote address.

"The same conflicts around the world which have brought misery to millions have brought record profits to arms manufacturers this year," Rachel Small, an organizer with World Beyond War, said in a statement. "These war profiteers have blood on their hands, and we are making it impossible for anyone to attend their weapons fair without directly confronting the violence and bloodshed they are complicit in."

The CANSEC arms expo is expected to bring 12,000 people, along with 55 international delegations, to Canada's capital, where attendees will hear from an estimated 306 exhibitors, including weapons manufacturers, military technology and supply companies, media outlets, and government agencies. The annual gathering in Ottawa is organized by the Canadian Association of Defense and Security Industries (CADSI), which represents more than 900 Canadian defense and security corporations.

Small said that "we're disrupting CANSEC in solidarity with the millions of people around the world who are being killed, who are suffering, who are being displaced as a result of the weapons sold and military deals made by the people and corporations inside this convention."

"While more than six million refugees fled Ukraine this year, while more than 400,000 civilians have been killed in seven years of war in Yemen, while at least 13 Palestinian children were killed in the West Bank since the start of 2022, the weapons companies sponsoring and exhibiting in CANSEC are raking in record billions in profits," said Small. "They are the only people who win these wars."

Since the start of 2022, Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman have watched their stocks surge by nearly 25% and 20%, respectively, while Raytheon and General Dynamics have enjoyed almost double-digit growth in their share prices.

Military contractors could hardly contain their excitement in the weeks leading up to Russia's invasion of Ukraine, with the chief executive officers of Lockheed Martin and Raytheon--both major sponsors of CANSEC--predicting during their January earnings calls that the looming war would lead to inflated military budgets and increased sales.

With "renewed great power competition" comes windfall profits, Lockheed Martin CEO James Taiclet told investors at the beginning of the year. At the same time, Raytheon CEO Greg Hayes--whose annual compensation package reached $23 million in 2021, up 11% from the previous year--told shareholders that "we're going to see some benefit from" increased "opportunities for international sales."

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"The weapons, vehicles, and technologies promoted at this arms show have profound implications for human rights in this country and around the world," said Brent Patterson, director of Peace Brigades International Canada. "What is celebrated and sold here means human rights violations, surveillance, and death."

Canada has become one of the world's leading arms dealers, and it is the second-largest supplier of weapons to the Middle East region, trailing only the United States.

According to World Beyond War Canada:

Most Canadian arms are exported to Saudi Arabia and other countries engaged in violent conflicts in the Middle East and North Africa, even though these customers were repeatedly implicated in serious violations of international humanitarian law.

Since the beginning of the Saudi-led intervention in Yemen in early 2015, Canada has exported approximately $7.8 billion in arms to Saudi Arabia, primarily armored vehicles produced by CANSEC exhibitor GDLS. Now in its seventh year, the war in Yemen has killed over 400,000 people, and created the worst humanitarian crisis in the world. Exhaustive analysis by Canadian civil society organizations has credibly shown these transfers constitute a breach of Canada's obligations under the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT), which regulates the trade and transfer of weapons, given well-documented instances of Saudi abuses against its own citizens and the people of Yemen. International groups like the Yemen-based Mwatana for Human Rights, as well as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, have also documented the devastating role of bombs produced by CANSEC sponsors like Raytheon, General Dynamics, and Lockheed Martin in air strikes on Yemen that hit, among other civilian targets, a marketplace, a wedding, and a school bus.

In 2021, Canada exported more than $26 million in military goods to Israel, an increase of 33% over the previous year. This included at least $6 million in explosives. Last year, Canada signed a contract to purchase drones from Israel's largest weapons maker and CANSEC exhibitor Elbit Systems, which supplies 85% of drones used by the Israeli military to monitor and attack Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza. An Elbit Systems subsidiary, IMI Systems, is the main provider of 5.56 mm bullets, the same type of bullet that was used by Israeli occupation forces to murder Palestinian journalist Shireen Abu Akleh.

Massive quantities of Canadian weapons are shipped to other parts of the world as well, including the Philippines, as Win Without War Canada explained:

CANSEC exhibitor the Canadian Commercial Corporation, a government agency that facilitates deals between Canadian arms exporters and foreign governments recently brokered a $234 million deal to sell 16 Bell 412 helicopters to the military of the Philippines. Ever since his election in 2016, the regime of Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte has been marked by a reign of terror that has killed thousands under the guise of an anti-drug campaign, including journalists, labor leaders, and human rights activists.

"Outside its borders, Canadian corporations plunder the oppressed nations of the world while Canadian imperialism benefits from its role as a junior partner in U.S.-led imperialism's vast complex of military and economic warfare," said Aiyanas Ormond of the International League of Peoples' Struggle.

"From its plunder of the mineral wealth of the Philippines, to its support for Israeli occupation, apartheid, and war crimes in Palestine, to its criminal role in the occupation and plunder of Haiti, to its sanctions and regime change machinations against Venezuela, to arms exports to other imperialist states and client regimes, Canadian imperialism uses its military and police to attack the people, suppress their just struggles for self-determination and for national and social liberation, and to maintain its regime of exploitation and plunder," Ormond added. "Let's join together to shut down this war machine!"

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