Media Release/Backgrounder
February 10, 2001

                          from the Coalition to Oppose the Arms Trade

******** Canada's 1.25 Billion in Military Sales to Saudi Arabia (1990-1998) ********

The data in this "Media Release/Backgrounder" is organized into the following sections:
(1) Military Exports from Canada to Saudi Arabia
(2) Human Rights Violations Aided and Abetted by Canadian Arms Sales
(3) Major Loopholes: Canadian Arms Export Report is Far from Transparent
(4) Light Armored Vehicles: Courtesy of General Motors
(5) Saudi Arabia: Identified by DFAIT as a key Military Export "Target"
(6) Kickbacks: Military Companies Make Major Political Donations
(7) Key to Military Equipment Types

(1) Military Exports from Canada to Saudi Arabia

Between 1990 and 1998, Canadian industries exported at least 1.25 Billion dollars worth of military equipment to Saudi Arabia.  

Year Military Equipment Types (see "Key" below)   

Value of military exports (in $Cdn)


1998                  6,10,11,14   29,800,192
1997               3,6,10,11,14    82,474,645
1996               1,3,6,10,11,14 195,303,965
1995       6,11,14       167,926,562
1994  6,9,11  280,207,393
1993                   6,7,11,14  218,998,798
1992               6,10,11,13,14  227,120,933
1991             2,4,7,11,13,14    18,362,069
1990                 2,7,11,14  10,069,897
Total                         $1,230,264,454


Source: "Export of Military Goods from Canada," annual reports, 1990-1998

On February 8, 2001, Roger Lucy, of the Export Controls Division, DFAIT <613-992-9167> told Coalition to Oppose the Arms Trade that DFAIT will "soon" be tabling in Parliament its annual report: "Export of Military Goods from Canada." This upcoming report will cover data for the year 1999.

(2) Human Rights Violations Aided and Abetted by Canadian Arms Sales 

There are no elections in Saudi Arabia and unions, strikes and collective bargaining are strictly outlawed in the kingdom.  Women's rights are severely curtailed.  The practice of religions, other than Islam, is illegal.  Amnesty International's Report 2000 states that "The government continued to enforce a ban on political parties and trade unions.  Press censorship also continued to be strictly enforced."

Saudi Arabia was among a dozen governments receiving Canadian military in 1998 that spent more on their militaries than they did on health and education combined.

"Canadian weapons systems are helping to maintain the status quo within repressive regimes, like the one in Saudi Arabia," says Richard Sanders, coordinator of the Coalition to Oppose the Arms Trade (COAT).  "People struggling non-violently for democratic change and human rights face governments armed to the teeth by Canadian military corporations.  Canada should at least try to live up to its rhetoric as a peacemaker.  One way to start would be to halt the sale of military equipment to  repressive regimes like Saudi Arabia.  Otherwise, our government is exposing itself as a hypocrite."

(3) Major Loopholes: Canadian Arms Export Report is Far from Transparent

The figures released in DFAIT's annual reports however are incomplete.  The government of Canada, despite claims of transparency in their reporting on the arms exports, DO NOT include the following data in their annual reports: 

(a) "Dual use" equipment, i.e., that which can be used for civilian or military purposes. (This loophole can conceal the export of equipment originally designed for military use, even when it is sold to a foreign government's armed forces, like the sale of Bell helicopters -- made infamous in Vietnam -- to the Colombian air force in the early 1990s.) 

(b) Military components which were exported to another country for assembly into complete weapons systems and which are then re-exported.

Most importantly, DFAIT's annual reports do not record any data whatsoever on Canada's military exports to the United States.  The U.S. is Canada's largest recipient of military equipment.  It accounts for at least half of our total military exports.  The U.S. is also the country most likely to assemble Canadian components in complete weapons systems for re-export to  Saudi Arabia, and other governments.  The Canadian government places no restrictions whatsoever on these re-exports.  Nor does the Canadian government place any restrictions, or require any permits whatsoever, for any Canadian military sales to the US.

Another example of DFAIT's hypocrisy regarding it's supposed transparent stand on military export data is the fact that it has delayed and stonewalled Access to Information requests made by COAT for data on Canada's military exports to Saudi Arabia and numerous other countries.

(4) Light Armored Vehicles: Courtesy of General Motors

The bulk of Canada's military exports to Saudi Arabia have involved the sale of "Light Armored Vehicles" (LAVs) by General Motors (GM), Diesel Division, in London Ontario.  This was, in fact, one of the largest single arms trade deals in Canadian history.  Besides the LAVs themselves, GM's exports have also included various spares, chassis upgrades, weapons systems and machine guns, ammunition and support systems for LAVs.

When GM's arms deal was under negotiation in the late 1980s, a special amendments to Canadian law were rushed through Parliament in order to allow the export of automatic weapons which were affixed to the turrets of the LAVs being sold to Saudi Arabia.  The readily Liberals agreed to the Tory's new law allowing these sales, but the NDP only agreed to give its 
consent if the Mulroney government organized public hearings across Canada
to investigate this country's arms trade.

GM has been ranked within the top six military corporations in Canada every
year since 1989.  It has been ranked the number one Canadian military
corporation three times during that period, including FY 1997/1998 and

(5) Saudi Arabia: One of DFAIT's Military Export "Targets"

The Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade (DFAIT) has published a policy document on aerospace and defense sector exports.  It states that:

"The Middle East remains an important market, particularly for defense-security firms.... The region accounts for more than 40% of all defense-product transfers and is expected to absorb over $150 billion by the year 2000.  Saudi Arabia is expected to purchase $32 billion worth of military equipment and other targets include the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait."
(Canada's International Business Strategy (CIBS), 1997-1998, Aerospace and Defense, Priority Markets.)

(6) Kickbacks: Military Companies Make Major Political Donations

Elections Canada reports that General Motors of Canada Ltd has given some generous donations to the warchest of the Liberal Party of Canada:

        1997        13,068.90
        1998         4,393.00
        Total        17,461.90

  GM's Diesel Division
1997         4,356.30
    1998         2,500.00
    Total         6,856.30

    GM TOTAL    24,318.20

General Motors is among Canada's largest military corporations that are making substantial contributions to the Liberal Party's war chest. Donations from some of Canada's largest military exporters (many of them foreign-owned), totaled over one million dollars between 1994 and 1998! And these are just the KNOWN donations from some of Canada's largest military companies.  Because of many loopholes in Election Canada's regulations on disclosure, there may be many more donations from these same corporations that we will never know about. (Parties do not have to report donations made: (1) to riding associations, (2) to MPs between elections or (3) to leadership campaigns.) 

Annual Totals:
Some Top Military Company Donations to the Liberal Party

1994     $212,690.46
1995     $194,668.44
1996     $218,959.35
1997     $301,306.82
1998     $213,837.15
Total  $1,141,462.22

(Source: 1997-1998 data is from Elections Canada's web site  The 1994-1996 data is from the Registered Political Parties' Fiscal Returns.)

How can the Liberal Party be expected to uphold foreign affairs policies in the public interest when they receive large donations from such influential special interest groups as weapons exporters?  The vested interests of these arms companies clearly run contrary to peace, human rights and the environment.

If Canadians were informed about the corporate bankrolling of the Liberal Party, they would likely be concerned about the undue influence that these special interest groups have upon government policies.  

 (7) Key to Military Equipment Types

1 Small arms and automatic weapons such as pistols, revolvers and rifles, including certain firearms for sporting and competition purposes and accessories.
2 Large-caliber armaments such as projectile launcher systems and components 
3 Ammunition for arms covered by items 1 & 2. 
4 Bombs, torpedoes, rockets, missiles, military pyrotechnics, demolition charges & components.
5 Fire control radars, range finding sensors, ballistic computers and related alerting and warning equipment specially designed for military use, and parts and components.
6 Military vehicles such as armored personnel carriers (APC) and military transport trucks, related equipment and components.
7 Equipment and components, such as masks and protective clothing, for detection and defense against radioactive materials and biological and chemical agents.
8 Explosives and fuels including precursors specially designed for military purposes.
9 Military vessels and specially designed parts and components such as engines, navigation systems and sonar equipment.
10 Military aircraft (a/c) and helicopters, including transport aircraft, aero-engines, parachutes and related parts and components.
11 Electronic equipment for military use such as communications equipment and radar systems.
13 Armored or protective equipment such as body armor, military helmets and bomb disposal suits and associated components.
14 Specialized equipment for military training or for simulating military scenarios, such as computerized trainers, aircraft and vehicle simulators, components and accessories.
15 Imaging or imaging countermeasure equipment, including photographic, thermal imaging equipment, and specially designed components.
16 Forgings, castings and semi-finished products specially designed for the products covered by items 1, 2, 3, 4, 6 and 10.
17 Miscellaneous equipment, technical databases, diving apparatus, construction and field engineering equipment specially designed for military use, robotic equipment & components.
18 Equipment and technology for the production of products referred to in any of the above categories.
21 Software specially designed for military applications (prior to 1996, this was 24).
23 Directed energy weapons systems, countermeasure equipment, test models and specially designed components
24 Software specially designed for military applications, such as in command-control communications and intelligence systems and special test equipment.

Sources: Export of Military Goods from Canada. Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade.