Dear Mayor O'Brien,
Since we launched our petition to "Stop Ottawa Arms Shows" six days ago, only about 500 people have signed. (View the signers and all their insightful comments here.) Being summer, it's been very slow getting this campaign started. Most people have been away. We are sure that many more people will join our campaign in September, once Canada's major holiday season is really over.
As Canadians, we like to think of our nation as one which does not promote war, violent regime changes or military aggression as a means of acquiring access to lucrative global resources. We see ourselves as proponents of peace and cooperation, not immoral war profiteering. By hosting trade bazaars associated with the international weapons trade, the City of Ottawa will help to expose the myth of Canada's supposedly benevolent role as a global force for peace.
In 1989, Ottawa's City Council passed a nearly-unanimous Motion (11-1) that condemned the international arms trade and banned all military trade shows, such as ARMX, from Ottawa City facilities, including Lansdowne Park. (Read the Motion here.)
This Motion has been respected by the City for almost 20 years.
As a result of this well-publicised initiative, the City of Ottawa garnered much respect not only from its own citizenry but from people all across Canada.
The City of Ottawa should now continue to honour the commitment made by Council in 1989 to ban war-related trade shows from municipal property. To do this, the City should immediately cancel its contract with "Secure Canada 2008," which is scheduled for this September 30-October 1. The contract which "Secure Canada 2008" has with exhibitors protects it from any lawsuits if the show is cancelled for any reason by the City. I would presume that the City's own contract with "Secure Canada 2008" has similar clauses to protect it.
Next year's "CANSEC 2009" should also be stopped from taking place at Ottawa's Lansdowne Park facility. It is an even bigger military trade show than "Secure Canada 2008." Likewise, all other such manifestations of the international arms trade should remain banned from municipal property.
"Secure Canada 2008," which will showcase a who's-who list of corporations and business associations known for their complicity in the manufacture and sale of some of the most destructive, major weapons systems ever made, is dominated by the U.S. military-industrial complex. Such manifestations of the international arms trade have inarguably facilitated the waging of unjust wars that have ravaged cities around the world and caused the deaths of literally millions of innocent civilians.
Are these the kind of sordid events that you and City Council now want to be seen as promoting?
Why is the City of Ottawa sponsoring this military trade show? Not only is the City planning to host this event at Lansdowne -- the crown jewel of our municipal facilities -- the City of Ottawa is actually listed as one of the show's "sponsors." See for yourself. The City logo is on the front page of the "Secure Canada 2008" website, under sponsors!
Ottawa City staff have tried to explain away their decision by saying that "Secure Canada 2008" is not an arms exhibition. They are wrong. Read more about that here. You should also familiarize yourself with the companies that are planning to exhibit their wares at "Secure Canada 2008." Read over the annotated list of exhibitors. In particular, please look over the information that I've put together there on the many manufacturers of major weapons systems that are planning to attend. A few weeks ago I wrote an article called: ""The Role of 'Secure Canada 2008' Exhibitors in America's Major Defense Acquisition Programs." I found that about 25% of the known "Secure Canada 2008" exhibitors are engaged as key suppliers for America's top "major weapons systems." (Read that article here.) On our website, COAT has also been running a feature called the "'Secure Canada 2008' Official Weapon System of the Week!" (Check that out for some of the most egregious examples of weapons systems that are sold by exhibitors.
So, make no mistake. Contrary to City Staff's assurances, this IS an "arms exhibition." I've been studying Canadian involvement in the international arms trade for 25 years and I can assure you that "Secure Canada 2008" is a fine example of this category of events.
War is widely perceived as a scourge upon humanity. And, besides the drug trade, the slave trade and human trafficking, the shameful business of profiteering from the trade in war-related technology is commonly considered to be one of the most reprehensible endeavours of mankind.
Should you and Council choose to go back on the commitment made in 1989 to ban such war-merchandising events, you can reasonably expect that this decision will not be a popular one. If these shows go ahead without prohibition from the City, people from across this City, in every Ward, from countless grass-roots organizations including religious groups and labour unions, associations of seniors and students, women's groups, immigrants, community associations and organizations devoted to human rights, peace and Third World development, will come to learn where you and each Council member stands on this issue. Those on Council who are seen to support the international trade in war materials will no doubt be held to account during upcoming campaigns for re-election.
Ottawa's citizenry will not be pleased to learn that a large array of companies providing equipment and services now being used to wage war in places such as Iraq, are being subsidized by Ottawa taxpayers through the hosting of military trade bazaars at municipal facilities. These facilities are mandated by law to make a priority of serving the interests of the general public. However, during these private, arms-industry trade events, they are completely off-limits and closed to any public participation.
Neither will Ottawa taxpayers be happy to learn that they are expected to pay for the extra security that the promoters of these arms bazaars want for their exclusive events. If those who profit from war-related businesses feel that they need to protect themselves from peaceful protesters, then let them pay for this themselves. It will strike many citizens as incredibly ironic that "arms dealers" and "merchants of death," those who are supposedly responsible for our "national security" and "public safety," feel so insecure and unsafe that they need to hide from the public inside closed-door events like "Secure Canada 2008" and "CANSEC 2009." What they really fear most is public exposure.
Many Ottawa taxpayers will resent the notion that they are expected to cover the costs of protecting the perceived security needs of those who flog a wide array of products and services for use by institutions whose business it is to wage war. This is especially ridiculous since the attention of our police forces and intelligence services will be focused entirely upon protecting those who are actually engaged in facilitating the trade in technologies used to perpetrate violence and oppression. What is our crime? We are merely citizens who want to exercise our right to freely assemble and speak out against the use of state-sponsored violence.
Canadian police should be tasked to investigate the violation of major crimes against humanity and peace committed by the institutions that wage war and the corporations that equip them. But instead, our taxes will pay our police to restrict those of us who only wish to expose and oppose wars, regime changes and repressive paramilitary tactics used to intimidate and control fellow citizens of the world. What's worse we, as always, will have to be vigilant to ensure that police and/or intelligence agents provocateurs do not infiltrate our protests in their efforts to make us appear to be violent, as we all know happened in Montebello.
When the City of Ottawa took a stand against the arms trade in 1989, it made it clear "that Lansdowne Park and other city facilities not be leased to ARMX or other such arms exhibitions.? If City Council now stands by the historic decision, and reverses the unfortunate actions taken by staff to allow these arms trade events to return to City property, then Ottawa's politicians will earn the respect of citizens throughout Ottawa and across Canada.
For almost twenty years now, City of Ottawa facilities have been free of military trade shows. Let's keep it that way. City Staff should be instructed to inform organizers of the scheduled arms shows that their events are still not welcome on municipal property.
Coalition to Oppose the Arms Trade (COAT)
Editor, Press for Conversion!