Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Resisting Canada's War Economy at the CANSEC Weapons Bazaar

June 22, 2011 – Two days before the now-former Senate page Brigette DePape spoke the truth about Canada’s political climate—that we need to build resistance outside of the lifeless chambers of Parliament—her message was already being enacted by a group of war resisters who put together a lengthy June 1st civil resistance action at the CANSEC weapons bazaar.
            The protest was not just about CANSEC – Canada’s largest annual weapons fair – but the whole war economy itself. It’s one to which both the majority Tories and the official opposition NDP are devoted, a $23 billion splurge that includes orders of 1,000 new smart bombs at $100,000 apiece. These come complete with the  names of Libyan citizens on the receiving end, under the euphemism of collateral damage. If you are homeless tonight, needing shelter from male violence, on a boil-water alert on a First Nations reserve, awaiting health care, locked out of daycare, or suffering from the other maladies affecting Canada, think of what each of those $100,000 smart bombs could have done if they had been turned into smart funds for social needs.
            That is the choice of an almost unanimous Parliament, and the message came through loud and clear when everyone save Green Party MP Elizabeth May voted to extend the Canadian bombing of the Libyan people (a most convenient focus for a make- work War Dept. that, drawing down its forces in Afghanistan, needs an excuse to keep bringing in the big bucks). People who view the NDP as a traditional voice for peace – a record certainly not borne out by the facts (see, in the same way that Canada’s mythological status as a peacekeeper cannot stand the scrutiny of its own history – may have been surprised to see the official opposition voting to bomb other human beings (with a few caveats thrown in, of course!).  But one can imagine NDP strategists with their eyes on the next election telling their members they must appear to be a “responsible” government in waiting, and idealistic notions like rejecting murder from the air must be discarded. Those are for irrelevant fourth place opposition parties. When you have your eye on eventually getting elected, you have to be prepared to kill with your $23 billion arsenal.
Arming Your Arsenal
            And that’s where CANSEC comes in. It’s where you go to get the tools for your arsenal; where foreign governments can sample Canadian weapons systems and components; where paranoid border control enthusiasts can find new means of stopping refugees from finding safety and asylum; and where police forces can sample the latest tools of repression. Whether you are a diplomatic staff member of Syria or Libya or a member of the bloated Canadian War Dept., the free pass through the gates is available for you.
            Interestingly, though, Members of Parliament do not have such easy access. Elizabeth May – even though her party’s stand on military spending is slightly less atrocious than the rest – was unable to gain access, something which she later told the rally outside of the weapons bazaar symbolized the manner in which militarism shuts down democracy.