Canada Exports Halo Helmets and Drones

And other war machines to the highest bidder.

May 17 2014, 3:00pm
Image: Flickr

While Canada exports oilmaple syrup, and hockey players, it also deals a lot of arms. And Canadian military exports are growing: the latest available figures say sales jumped more than 50 percent from 2010 to 2011, with later years reportedly expected to spike.

Which is why it isn’t surprising the Harper government is endorsing CANSEC—Canada’s premier defense trade show—and officially encouraging all Canadian armed forces personnel to attend the event in Ottawa less than two weeks from now.

In a recently released government memorandum, the Chief Review Services office says CF soldiers and Department of National Defence personnel are “authorized and highly encouraged to visit the CANSEC 2014 exhibits,” because they’ll get the chance to “network with industry leaders.” In other words, soldiers and DND bureaucrats will rub shoulders with foreign army officers and arms producers touting the latest in war machines.

Besides international firms, CANSEC is showcasing the military technology scene in Canada—and it’s booming. Revision Military, a Montreal-based firm, just sold 90,000 next-generation helmets to the US Department of Defense, with countries like Denmark lining up for the future-soldier tech. It’s “Batlskin Viper” head gear brings to mind a Halo helmet. It has a lightweight polyethylene shell with protection from blunt force, blast, and ballistic threats, and a multipurpose front mount for all your night vision goggle needs.

When it comes to military technology, drones are Canada’s bread and butter with emerging companies all over the country. In 2011, little-known Waterloo company Aeryon dealt drones to Libyan rebels fighting General Gadaffi. Since, the Canadian drone company is known to count Saudi Arabia, the Canadian Forces, RCMP, and the US Army as clients. Aeryon specializes in surveillance drones and is the market standard for remote controlled systems the average Joe can master in minutes. It's currently rebranding their drones for commercial use in new agriculture and scientific markets, perhaps to shake connections with a dirty Libyan war and expand profits.

From a government perspective, it’s no secret Harper is touting the emergence of Canadian arms tech as potentially lucrative business. He’s now mixing diplomacy with weapons pitches and questionable human rights records don’t disqualify customers.

Another Canadian company showcasing at CANSEC already has a lucrative production deal courtesy of the government. In February, through diplomatic channels Harper's negotiators helped a lubricate a $10 billion deal for General Dynamics Canada to build light armoured vehicles for the Saudi Arabian Army, a country known for public beheadings and not letting women drive

There's a reason arms dealing is all the rage in Canada. With the War On Terror winding down and Canada’s own inglorious exit from a long Afghan mission, western nations are looking to recoup costs. One way is through weapons deals to foreign buyers.

“Many countries, including Canada, are looking to expand defence industry exports to offset reduced demand at home,” says Dan Wasserbly, an Americas editor at IHS Jane’s.

“In 2013 Canada was looking to expand the list of countries to which its defence industries may export controlled goods–but according to our records that was for the possible addition of Brazil, Chile, Peru, and South Korea,” he says.

According to Wasserbly, Canada’s arms exports are regulated by the Export and Import Permits Act, with controlled items only exported to certain countries. While amendments can be made to who they sell to on that list, the bar is clearly low. It’s been reported that Harper already sanctions arms deals to countries with dicey records, like the automatic weapons deals to China, Russia, Egypt, Uzbekistan, and even Ukraine under the Yanukovych regime