Posts filed under ‘Ceasefire.ca Newsletters’
The Canadian military is about to deploy low-power laser weapons, also known as “laser dazzlers,” to Afghanistan. Experts have raised serious concerns about the dangers these devices pose to civilians – including potentially blinding children.
Just like notorious taser weapons, there are concerns that these laser dazzlers have not been properly tested and could have disastrous consequences for Afghans – and possibly our own soldiers.
I urge you to read the news article by Ottawa Citizen reporter David Pugliese (his blog is highly recommended) below – published last weekend in newspapers across Canada.
If you have not already done so, please send your letter to Prime Minister Harper through Ceasefire.ca right away at http://www.ceasefire.ca, urging him not to deploy laser dazzlers to Afghanistan.
If there is enough public outcry against these weapons, it is possible that we can stop them from being sent to Afghanistan. Please send your letter, and urge other to send letters as well.
Thanks for whatever you can do,
Rideau Institute and
founder of Ceasefire.ca
Military expects green light for laser dazzlers; Weapons are illegal, will set bad example, critics say
July 12, 2008
Armed with legal advice that the systems can be classified as warning devices, the Canadian military wants to proceed with the purchase of laser weapons designed to temporarily blind people.
But a group opposed to the purchase of the equipment says any use of the so-called “laser dazzlers” in Afghanistan violates international law and sets a dangerous precedent.
The senior military leadership has recommended the purchase, and the $10-million project is now awaiting approval from Defence Minister Peter MacKay. Defence insiders say the military’s lawyers examined the legalities of using the devices on Afghans, and concluded the systems are not laser weapons and can be deemed warning devices. MacKay is expected to approve the purchase.
But Anthony Salloum, program director at the Rideau Institute in Ottawa, said Canada would be violating its international obligations by using the dazzlers on Afghans. Canada has ratified a treaty that prevents the use of weapons that cause permanent blindness.
“These are laser weapons that can blind and, as tests by Penn State University have shown, can also cause second-and third-degree burns,” said Salloum, whose institute has criticized the government and military’s approach to the Afghanistan mission. It’s also leading a campaign to halt the purchase of the dazzlers.
The lasers are capable of “disrupting” the vision of a person 50 to 500 metres away, depending on the model used. Some manufacturers say the systems are entirely safe, while other officials who know the weapons acknowledge they can injure or blind people – but only when improperly used at close range.
Salloum said the Canadian military’s claim the dazzlers are simply warning devices sends a message to other nations, such as China, that such weapons are acceptable to use.
“Once Canada does this, it has set a dangerous precedent and opened up the field to other countries to do it,” argued Salloum. “They’ll be able to say, ‘Well, Canada uses them, so why shouldn’t we? We’re just going to rename them as warning devices instead of calling them weapons’.”
China has equipped its security forces with laser dazzlers for riot control, but has been criticized by human-rights groups for doing so.
Last August, it was reported that India’s army planned to acquire dazzlers. An Indian government defence research centre had developed two such systems for use in counter-insurgency operations, according to news reports. Laser devices have been used in the past to disrupt optical systems on vehicles, aircraft and missiles. But the use of smaller laser dazzlers on people has been relatively limited.
In 2006, the U.S. military confirmed it’s using dazzlers in Iraq, and officers have said the devices have helped save Iraqi lives.
The Canadian military wants to mount the dazzlers on rifles and vehicles, mainly for use in protecting convoys. It’s hoped the systems could result in fewer Afghan civilians – who don’t heed warnings to stop at checkpoints or to approach convoys – getting shot dead by soldiers.
Defence officials declined to be interviewed about laser dazzlers, but did issue an e-mail statement, which noted no approval has been given to acquire the systems. It did confirm, however, that the Canadian Forces is proposing to equip its troops in Afghanistan with such equipment.
“Laser dazzlers would allow our soldiers another non-lethal means to ensure that they have done all they can to warn Afghan civilian drivers and pedestrians from entering a critical zone in which deadly force could be used,” reads the e-mail from department spokeswoman Jillian Van Acker.
“We are confident that the proposed use of laser warning devices would not contravene any provision of international humanitarian law applicable to Canada.”
But Salloum questioned that claim.
To satisfy international obligations, Canada would be required to conduct various technical and medical tests to prove the weapons do not violate international law, he said.
“If these are so safe and so legal, then where is the evidence?” Salloum asked. “How come (Defence) is not releasing any of its reports and test materials to back up their claims?”
Scott McLeod of M.D. Charlton Company, a firm that hopes to bid on the program, said the dazzlers can save lives. Although such devices are not considered to be “eye safe,” he noted that if used properly, they won’t harm a person’s sight.
He noted that under the Geneva Convention, lasers can’t be used as weapons – only to mark targets and warn off individuals.
May 9, 2008
YOU WIN! Yesterday the government listened to Canadians like you and confirmed its historic decision to block the Canadarm and RADARSAT-2 sell-off.
|Watch Rideau Institute’s Anthony Salloum on CTV Canada AM, May 9, 2008|
That’s why I need your help – to keep ATK out of Canada, and to keep control of our world class space program.Should Canada’s environmental satellite be used for space weapons?
Make your donation now
Canada’s top scientific and environmental space science programs, the CANADARM and the remarkable RADARSAT-2 satellite, are being sold off to a U.S. weapons corporation.
The American corporation builds space and nuclear weapons systems, landmines, cluster bombs, depleted uranium weapons and Pentagon “black budget” programs.
RADARSAT-2 is a satellite designed to monitor climate change and Arctic sovereignty, but now it could be used for U.S. American space weapons programs. Please make your contribution to stop this from happening.
In the 1990s the federal government made a terrible mistake by privatizing much of our space program. Now, MacDonald Dettwiler and Associates (MDA) intends to sell off RADARSAT-2, the CANADARM, and other programs to Alliant Techsystems (ATK).
But the sale needs to be approved by the government. According to reports, the approval could be given before March 22 – if we do not act quickly.
We are launching an emergency action campaign and fund to stop the sale of RADARSAT-2 and CANADARM to ATK, and I need your help. In the coming days and weeks we will:
• Launch a media blitz to let Canadians know what is happening
• Use legal challenges to try to block the sale
• Build a coalition of scientists, experts, labour leaders, diplomats and activists
Rideau Institute and founder of Ceasefire.ca
March 7, 2008
Dear Ceasefire.ca Supporter,
On Wednesday I appeared before the Commons Committee on Industry and warned the MPs that this would be a disaster for Canadian environmental protection, jobs, sovereignty, and our role in promoting the peaceful uses of space.
In January of this year, MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates (MDA) announced the sale of its information systems and space division to Alliant Techsystems, a U.S. company that describes itself as “the world’s leading manufacturer of rocket motor systems for space launch vehicles, strategic missiles, prompt global strike missiles, and missile defense interceptors.”
While Canada owned RADARSAT-1, the federal government entered into a privatization deal with MDA whereby the corporation would fully own its successor, RADARSAT-2. Canadian taxpayers contributed $430 million toward its development, but we now stand to lose the benefit of this remarkable satellite.
I ask you to join me in calling on Prime Minister Harper to do the right thing, and refuse to allow this deal to go forward. The deal could be approved by March 22 – please send your letter now.
Thanks for taking action.
Outrage greets U.S. bid to buy Canada’s largest space firm; sale to include taxpayer-funded $524-million Radarsat-2 satellite
by David Pugliese
Friday, March 07, 2008
CREDIT: Cole Garside, The Ottawa Citizen
Physicist Lawrence Morley wants the auditor general to probe the pending sale of MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates’ space division to a U.S. firm because it would include the Radarsat-2 satellite, a piece of cutting-edge technology that has received millions in taxpayer funding.
The proposed purchase by a U.S. firm of Canada’s largest space company, and with it a $524-million high-tech satellite built mainly with taxpayers’ money, is being challenged by a growing number of scientists and engineers.
Lawrence Morley, one of Canada’s top geophysicists and the man who pushed the federal government to invest in what eventually became the Radarsat-2 satellite, is calling for the auditor general to probe what he calls a sweetheart deal that allows a private firm to sell off such a valuable spacecraft.
In addition, Hugh Thompson, a spacecraft systems engineer with MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates, yesterday came forward to say the sale of the British Columbia company’s space division to a U.S. firm should be halted.
Two other engineers at the company have already quit in protest over the deal.
Marc Garneau, the first Canadian in space, also said earlier this week that he hopes the company’s space division will not be sold because that would represent a major loss of Canada’s space capabilities, built up over the years with large amounts of taxpayer funding.
At issue are plans by U.S. firm Alliant Techsystems to purchase MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates’ space and military assets for $1.325 billion. The firm is considered the backbone of Canada’s space industry.
With that deal, announced by both firms in early January, comes ownership of the recently launched Radarsat-2 satellite, the world’s most advanced radar imaging spacecraft. The $524-million Radarsat-2 was built by MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates, but Canadian taxpayers funded most of that project.
Its technology, which allows the satellite to produce images of objects the size of a car from 800 kilometres in space, is seen as key to Canada’s security and science efforts. Radarsat-2 can be used for agricultural, environmental and forestry purposes as well as to measure the thickness of ice in the North.
However, in the late 1990s, the Canadian Space Agency transferred ownership of the satellite to MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates (MDA).
Mr. Morley said the company is simply doing what’s best for its shareholders and earning a profit from selling the satellite and other technology. But he pointed out that someone has to be looking out for Canadians.
“A mistake was made by the Canadian Space Agency when they gave this sweetheart deal to MDA and transferred the ownership of all the technology and the satellite, and all the data to them,” said the 88-year-old scientist and Order of Canada winner. “That’s a thing for the auditor general to look into on whether it was a mistake or whether it was a government decision.”
Two employees of the company, Paul Cottle and Trevor Williams, have quit their jobs in protest of the sale, saying they do not want to work for Alliant, which builds landmines, cluster bombs and engines for nuclear-tipped ballistic missiles.
Officials with Alliant Techsystems and MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates declined to comment, citing pending government approval of the sale. Both firms have previously said the sale will be good for Canada. Alliant officials have also said they will keep jobs in the country and they plan to expand the Canadian company’s space division so it can attract even more work.
But Mr. Morley said the government should put a halt to the deal. “It’s an affront that will be a major blow to our space efforts,” he said.
Industry Minister Jim Prentice will have final say on whether the deal goes through. Bill Rodgers, his director of communications, said Mr. Prentice has until March 22 to make a decision, although a 30-day extension could be requested.
“Under the Investment Canada Act, the big thing is whether this transaction is of net benefit to Canada,” said Mr. Rodgers. “That is the test.
“It won’t be a done deal until the minister is satisfied that the tests under the act are met and, if they’re not, he, as the minister, can make a decision on that basis,” Mr. Rodgers said.
The Canadian Space Agency did not respond to e-mailed questions earlier this week.
Mr. Morley said the technology used by the first satellite, Radarsat-1, and now Radarsat-2, is cutting-edge and the imagery from the spacecraft is in demand by Canadian government departments, scientists and other nations.
Mr. Morley, then director general of the Canada Centre for Remote Sensing, pushed the government in the mid-1970s to invest in the unique technology outfitted on the Radarsat spacecraft, and his organization did the original research. He also selected MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates, then a small Canadian firm, to work on the sensors and had government research transferred to the firm.
Mr. Morley said that billions of dollars of tax money have been invested in the company over the years, but he didn’t hold out much hope the sale will be halted.
Mr. Garneau said the government has invested heavily in the Canadian firm to build it up into the country’s largest space firm producing world-class technology.
© The Ottawa Citizen 2008
Dear Ceasefire.ca Supporter,
I have just returned to my office from the CTV televisions studios, where I urged the government not to restart the transfer of prisoners to local Afghan prisons.
My appeal was motivated by an extreme sense of urgency. You may have read in the newspapers last week the story of a 50-year-old labourer and his 11-year-old son, living in Kandahar where our troops are based, who were picked up by Afghan police.
The officers, our allies in the fight against the Taliban, took the man and boy to a police checkpoint and gang-raped them both. The father said, “As they did it to me, I could hear the others doing it to my son.”
We know this story is true because fortunately three of the policemen responsible were charged, found guilty, and sentenced to 10 years in prison by a Kandahar court. But rape is under-reported and rarely makes it to trial.
I am shocked that the military, no doubt with the approval of the Harper government, is starting this terrible practice of handing detainees to local authorities once again. Amnesty International and others are calling on the government to stop these handovers.
The evidence that torture is rampant throughout the judicial system is undeniable. Even Canadian inspectors could not ignore the evidence of torture, and the military quietly stopped handing over prisoners to Afghan authorities last November.
I urge you, if you have not already done so, to join with the 685 other Ceasefire.ca supporters in sending your letter to Prime Minister Harper, urging him to stop the transfer of detainees.
Thanks for taking action.
Dear Ceasefire.ca supporter
I wanted to let you know that tonight I will be a guest on CBC TV’s The National, speaking on what Canada should be doing in Afghanistan.
On Monday I recorded a 3-minute monologue for the CBC at the National War Museum which will air tonight. In my segment, I advocated strongly for Canada to take a lead role in a comprehensive peace settlement in Afghanistan. This afternoon I am travelling down to Toronto to be on a panel in Peter Mansbridge’s studio to discuss the war. I hope you’ll be able to watch.
As well, I’m sure that you will be just as dismayed as I am to learn that the Prime Minister of Canada, Stephen Harper, is actually scheduled to make a major speech to a military-advocacy group called the Conference of Defence Associations on Thursday in Ottawa.
The CDA receives hundreds of thousands of dollars in funding from the Department of National Defence, and according to Macleans.ca, it is required to ensure that it publishes “a certain number” of articles in newspapers. Not surprisingly, according to its director, retired colonel Alain Pellerin, the CDA rarely disagrees with the Conservative Party’s defence policy.
You can read more on one of the best blogs on Canadian military issues, Ottawa Citizen journalist David Pugliese’s Defence Watch. According to Pugliese, the Prime Minister is set to announce billions of dollars in more military equipment purchases.
December 6, 2007
Where’s Canada’s leadership on banning cluster bombs?
Ceasefire.ca founder, Steve Staples, with Nobel Peace Prize recipient, Jody Williams. Join them in calling for Canadian leadership to create a ban on cluster bombs.
Dear Ceasefire.ca Supporter,
Ten years ago, Canada was instrumental in creating the Ottawa Treaty, which produced a ban on anti-personnel mines. Today, we need to pressure Prime Minister Harper and his Conservative government to position Canada as a leader in the movement to ban cluster bombs.
Jody Williams, Chair of the Nobel Women’s Initiative and recipient of the 1997 Nobel Peace Prize for her work in bringing about the landmine ban, was in Ottawa this past week, and was very vocal about her disappointment in Canada’s inaction on cluster bombs. In a press conference that the Nobel Women’s Initiative held last week on Parliament Hill, Ms. Williams stressed the importance of Canadian leadership in resolving the issue of cluster bombs and other global affairs. We recorded and uploaded video of this press conference; you can view Part 1 and Part 2.
If you haven’t done so already, please join me and other Ceasefire.ca activists in sending a letter to Stephen Harper, urging him to add Canada’s name to the list of countries that are leading efforts to ban cluster bombs.