Correcting Misperceptions

Re: Lifting Ottawa’s Ban on Arms Trading Shows on City Owned Property

By Gord Breedyk and Evelyn Voigt


1.         The City of Ottawa needs to host military trade shows on City of Ottawa property to keep Canadian soldiers safe:  The Department of Defence, with its large annual budget and its military posts across Canada, has easy access to all arms producers in Canada.  It does not need the City of Ottawa to do this for them.  Secondly, Canadians are in Afghanistan fighting for Peace. Canada is a country founded on Peace; a country known for peace. The Peace tower is our capital’s national symbol. The capital city has a responsibility to represent Canadians who believe in peace, including our soldiers who stand for peace; who want to come home to a country that stands for peace; who are proud to serve for a country that stands for peace. Their families also prefer peace over war. Let the nation’s capital symbolically celebrate that peace with them, rather than focusing on war, war products and profits that result from them.


2.         Department of Defence, and the Canadian government in general, need trade shows on city grounds to find out what Canadian arms firms have to offer: Department of Defence procurement officers (and other government officials feeling the need for this information) already have all needed information about Canadian arms producers.  It is the diplomats from foreign countries, and military attaches, who need the show to find out what they can procure for their domestic wars.  Others who benefit from these events, obviously, are those who profit from the ultimate sale of the products involved, regardless of where they are used.


3.         To oppose the ban on arms trading on city grounds is to weaken Canadian access to equipment for first line responders (fire fighters, etc):  No one is against trade shows focusing on first line responders. It is arms trading that people are objecting to.  Indeed, a show on first line responders would be welcomed. Make it a family affair. Let the Ottawa public proudly participate, learn and celebrate such a show.


4.         To stop the trade shows on city grounds will harm the arms trade. The arms trade does not need the city for survival nor for support of any kind. It has survived for 20 years with the city ban. Indeed, it has grown despite the city ban. In 2009, at a time when Canadians are losing their jobs and livelihoods to an economic recession, the government has announced an increase of hundreds of millions of dollars to the military. This is money that is not going towards health care, education, unemployment insurance, retraining for the jobless, housing for the homeless, food for the hungry.


5.         The city is overturning the 20-year ban because the ban was imposed by the old city and the new Ottawa residents are in favour of war trading on city grounds: The city does not know this for a fact.  Indeed, the only existing information on the views of Ottawa citizens is the petition recently signed by 3000 Ottawa citizens (plus approximately 1,500 people outside city limits) protesting against the lifting of the ban. Names and addresses will show that petitioners against the lifting of the ban are from all regions of the new city limits. The city can easily determine the validity of this assertion by postponing the city vote on the motion before it, until there has been a city wide discussion.


6.         To agree to citizen’s concerns in this case will lead to a “slippery slope” where citizens may object to other shows:  Citizens are always free to voice their opinions on such subjects at any time, regardless of what decision is made in this case.  Furthermore, since City Council is elected to represent citizens of Ottawa, is it not appropriate to respond to their expressed concerns … whether on this issue or others?  In fact, it would seem totally inappropriate to not take these concerns into account.


7.         Canadians are safer if Ottawa hosts arms trade shows on city grounds: The symbolism of Canada’s historic role as a peaceful nation has made Canadians so safe in the world that American (and other) travellers have regularly sewn the maple leaf onto their backpacks for better security abroad. The symbolism of Canada’s capital city as a city of peace has reinforced this in the past and will in the future, if the ban on military trade shows is maintained. To equate the City of Ottawa with arms trading shows is to symbolically contradict Canada’s historic and symbolic links with peace. Ironically, hosting arms trade shows will make Canadians less safe around the world and at home.


8.         If Ottawa hosts arms trade shows on city grounds it will better protect citizens against acts of terrorism: Acts of terrorism have largely been perpetrated against countries perceived to be fostering war rather than peace. Canada, until recently, has not been one of them. If Ottawa chooses to lift the ban against hosting arms trade shows, and indeed encourages such shows on its grounds, it is symbolically representing itself as a city that fosters the implements of war. Such symbolism makes its citizens more vulnerable to retaliatory acts of terrorism.


9.         Ottawa should lift the ban on arms trading on city grounds because our soldiers are fighting in Afghanistan. Not doing so sends a message of a lack of support for our soldiers and will dishonour them and their families: Our presence in Afghanistan is a temporary measure in the long history of Canada. Ottawa’s decision to symbolically stand for peace is a long term measure. Let Ottawa symbolically support the long standing Canadian goal of peace, not symbolically support the goal of conflict, especially on the grounds of a temporary assignment in Afghanistan.  Furthermore, banning a military trade show is in fact sending our men and women in Afghanistan a strong message of support – that we honour that for which they and their families are sacrificing themselves: peace; peace; peace.


10.       To lift the ban on arms trading on city grounds is justified because the Department of Defence is located in Ottawa: There is more to Ottawa than the Department of Defence. Ottawa citizens do not define themselves or their public property (especially Lansdowne Park) primarily in terms of the Department of Defence. They define themselves and their public property (especially Lansdowne Park) primarily in terms of a peace loving and peace promoting nation.


11.       To oppose lifting the ban on arms trading on city grounds is to weaken our military’s capacity to win wars:  The military agree that they have not won a war since WWII. (“We haven’t won a single war since the Second World War” – Rupert Smith, former Deputy Supreme Commander of NATO, in his 2005 book, The Utility of Force.)  Military leaders agree, the most effective way to keep our soldiers safe is to prevent the escalation of conflict to violence. 


12.       Lifting the ban on arms trading on city grounds makes citizens safer:  The opposite is in fact true.  It is well documented, and reported almost daily, that it is now civilians rather than soldiers who are most vulnerable and likely to die in wars.  In Iraq, for example, the number of civilian deaths is currently estimated to be in the range of one million, far more than the number of soldiers who died from all nations who participated.


13.       The equipment displayed / presented at the Ottawa CANSEC exhibit is shown by legitimate companies and their products are meant for legitimate use only.  The point is not whether or not the companies are legitimate, nor whether their products are legal or legitimate.  The point is where the products being produced end up and the effects or impacts of their use.  Many of the products being produced are extremely harmful and/or contribute to the making of, or “effectiveness” of, very dangerous and harmful products.  As has been thoroughly documented many of these products have, in one form or another ended up leading to terrible suffering of civilians (including women and children). 


14.              The products displayed at the arms show are mainly for first line responders (firefighting etc.):  CANSEC 2009 was a mixed event, so there were those who promoted and marketed arms, as well as many first line responder companies.  The supposedly neutral component parts exhibited at CANSEC, when embedded in and deployed through their clients’ armaments, cause incredible and unnecessary human suffering … of civilians, as well as soldiers.  We would be happy to provide you a list of companies who participated at CANSEC 2009, what they produce, and which wars their products have been used in.