Canada at the World's Largest Arms Fair

October 17, 2019

Canada at UK military trade show

The United Kingdom’s – and the world’s – largest military trade show, Defence and Security Equipment International (DSEI), is held every two years. The latest show took place this past September in London’s East Docklands. There, 35,000 representatives from government, the military and law enforcement met with arms producers from more than 50 countries. Among the shoppers for the latest weapons were representatives of repressive regimes and states accused of major breaches of international human rights and humanitarian law. Sellers included a range of Canadian companies.

Canadian companies at DSEI

Among the more than 50 Canadian companies at DSEI 2019 were Colt Canada, PAL Aerospace, and INKAS Armored Vehicle Manufacturing. Some of Canada’s largest weapons producers, including Lockheed Martin Canada, Raytheon Canada Limited, and General Dynamics Land Systems Canada, were represented by their foreign-owned parent companies.Most of these companies belong to the Canadian Association of Defence and Security Industries (CADSI), which has more than 900 members. CADSI operated the Canada Pavilion, where their members met with potential clients.

The Canada Pavilion, flanked by the Ontario Pavilion, at DSEI 2019

The Canadian government at DSEI

The Canada Pavilion was sponsored by various government bodies, including the Department of National Defence (DND); Global Affairs Canada (GAC); Canadian Economic Development for Quebec Regions; the Ontario Ministry of Economic Development, Job Creation and Trade; and the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA).

Perhaps the most active public body at DSEI was the Canadian Commercial Corporation (CCC), a Crown corporation that operates as a broker between private domestic arms producers and foreign governments. In FY2018, the CCC brokered 100 contracts for Canadian military goods with a total value of more than $1.3-billion.

Among the services Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) personnel commonly perform at DSEI are providing military attachés to “support Canadian industry at key defence industry events.” CAF personnel connect weapons producers with foreign defence ministries, advise on accessing foreign markets, and report on fluctuating allied defence budgets.

Prince Faisal bin Hussein of Jordan posing with CADSI President and CEO Christyn Cianfarani outside the Canada and Ontario DSEI 2019 pavilions.

Opposition to DSEI

UK civil society, including Campaign Against the Arms Trade (CAAT), launched large demonstrations against DSEI. London Mayor Sadiq Khan told DSEI to “get out” of London, as many of the city’s newest residents were forced to flee their homes “as a consequence of arms and weapons like those exhibited at DSEI.”

At the same time, DSEI barred such human rights groups as Amnesty International and some journalists from the site.

What does the Canadian presence at DSEI signify?

The strong Canadian presence at DSEI 2019 suggests that Canada is still willing to aggressively pursue arms deals⁠—some, with potentially objectionable clientele. But Canada is now a state party to the Arms Trade Treaty, which imposes stringent standards on arms imports and exports. In 2021, Canadian officials should view attendance to the problematic arms fare with the legitimate scrutiny it deserves.

Featured Image:UK’s Calder industrial materials at DSEI 2019

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