Dear Ceasefire.ca supporter,
I wanted to let you know about the progress we are making on our campaign to stop Stephen Harper’s armed drones plan.
If you have not signed our No Attack Drones petition yet, please sign it right away.
As you may have read on Ceasefire.ca, for years the military has been trying to buy drone aircraft armed with air-to-ground missiles and bombs, just like the ones Americans use in Asia and Africa to carry out devastating “targeted killings” – attacks that often take the lives of innocent women and children.
The Canadian project, known as JUSTAS, has been portrayed by officials as using unarmed drones for Arctic surveillance – but, with your support, Ceasefire.ca has blown the lid off Harper’s plans to buy drones packing heavy weapons for use overseas.
Obviously worried about the potential for us to derail the program, Ottawa-based lobbyists for an American weapons corporation that makes drones asked for a meeting with us to discuss the aircraft they are promoting to the military (which could be weaponized, they admitted).
We are talking to Members of Parliament and their senior staff, alerting them to Harper’s little-known program. Many tell us they had no idea about the weaponized drone plan.
For instance, when Ceasefire.ca’s Steven Staples met with MP John McKay, the Liberal Party’s defence critic, their planned 30-minute meeting stretched into more than an hour as they discussed the serious implications of Canada buying armed drones.
We are also contacting journalists, encouraging more coverage of the issue. We spoke to a leading defence reporter who attended the annual CANSEC arms show in Ottawa last month, and he told us that the major drones-manufacturing firms were there, promoting their remote control weapons systems to the reported 10,000 industry and government attendees.
Steve was also invited to submit an opinion article to the magazine Esprit de Corps, which is read widely by the political and military community. It will be published in the coming weeks.
More great news – the influential Hill Times produced a full-page investigative article last month which included useful information, and reached a broad audience in Ottawa. I am including a copy of the article below for your information.
Finally, as Steve mentioned in his email recently, we have been working with 11 other groups to reach out to people who care about peace. It’s amazing what’s happened.
We have received so much response that Ceasefire.ca’s network has grown to 25,000 supporters – a 25% increase!
Before I go, I just want to add that if you have made a donation this year or if you are a member of our Peacekeepers monthly donor club – thanks a lot!
If not, would you give $7 each month to stop Harper? We’ll send you a free book. Check it out! http://www.ceasefire.ca/donate/
Thanks for everything you do for peace.
Kathleen Walsh, Ceasefire.ca
Feds should think carefully about Canadian military’s push for drones, say experts, critics
Drones have a psychological impact on the countries that possess them and they tend to use them for targeted killings, says Rideau Institute’s Steven Staples.
By MATT MOIR | Hill Times Monday, 05/27/2013
The federal government should think very carefully about the military’s push to obtain drones, experts and critics say.
“These drones have a psychological impact on the countries that possess them and the militaries that use them, and they tend to use them for targeted killings,” said Steven Staples, president of the Rideau Institute, an Ottawa-based think-tank.
The Canadian Forces are pursuing drone technology under a program called Joint Unmanned Surveillance Target Acquisition System (JUSTAS). According to a Department of National Defence status report, “JUSTAS will complement existing reconnaissance, surveillance, and target acquisition capabilities, increase maritime and arctic domain awareness and provide precision force application in support of Land and Special Operations Forces.”
Critics charge that militaries that use armed drones in conflict run the risk of blowback.
Human rights groups, meanwhile, are concerned about the use of drones and the U.S. government’s description of “targeted” killings.
“As we’ve learned in Afghanistan, the misuse of firepower has a tremendously negative impact on our ability to succeed in our missions. When civilians are killed, it turns populations against us and it gives our opponents the opportunity to use it against us in the battle for hearts and minds,” said Mr. Staples in an interview with The Hill Times.
Pir Zubair Shah, a fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and contributor to GlobalPost, said that “drones are a part of future warfare,” but also said that Canadians need to be very careful as to how they are used by government.
“The biggest thing to take into account is transparency. What the public knows about where drones are being deployed and how much understanding the Canadian government has within the countries in which it might deploy drones,” Mr. Shah told The Hill Times.
Unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) technology, more commonly known as drone technology, is billed by the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) as the most effective way to monitor Canada’s vast, sparsely populated Arctic Coast, an area that has become strategically important in recent years.
The effects of climate change have led to the emergence of a geopolitical struggle over sovereignty and resource exploitation in the Far North. As temperatures rise and ice recedes in the Arctic region, significant amounts of oil, gas, and minerals are becoming increasingly available along newly-accessible passageways. Canada is one of a number of different countries jockeying for authority and position in the Arctic, along with Russia, the United States, Denmark, and Norway.
Presently, Aurora aircraft and CF-18 warplanes patrol Canada’s Arctic, though in March, Canadian Lt.-Gen. Yvan Blondin told the Senate Defence Committee that drones are the best way forward to monitor remote parts of Canada.
“I need to use the drones. They have got the range and endurance to be able to go on long patrols and be our eyes in the sky in the Arctic. It is a Canadian requirement,” Lt.-Gen. Blondin said on March 25 before the committee.
Mr. Staples said that surveillance-only drones monitoring Canada’s coasts do not alarm the Rideau Institute.
“There’s probably not a lot of difference between a plane that has a pilot and a plane that doesn’t have a pilot when it’s used for surveillance. In fact, we’ve suggested in the past that Arctic surveillance might be better handled by high altitude, long endurance unmanned aircraft,” Mr. Staples said.
But there is another element to the JUSTAS program. The RCAF wants to equip drones with weapon technology.
Last year, in an appearance before the Senate Defence Committee in, RCAF Commander Lt.-Gen. André Deschamps said that armed drones are a requirement of the Canadian Forces.
“Clearly, in foreign operations, during complex missions, like in Afghanistan or Libya, for example, the advantage of drones is that they remain in position for long periods of time and they see a lot. The capability for action is also very important being able to have a short- or medium-range weapon is very important. So the capability to be armed, if required, especially internationally, will be part of the needs identified for the drones,” said Lt.-Gen. Deschamps at a Feb. 27 meeting.
But Michael Skinner, a researcher with York University’s Centre for International Security Studies, said he is uneasy about Canada embracing the weaponization of UAVs.
“I’ve spent a considerable amount of time in northern Pakistan and Afghanistan and one of the first grievances people mention against the United States and the West, in general, are the drone attacks. They’re not as clean as politicians would like us to believe they are,” Mr. Skinner told The Hill Times in an interview.
Drone warfare has grown to play a significant and controversial role in U.S. President Barack Obama’s foreign policy, particularly in South and Central Asia, North Africa, and the Middle East.
Mr. Obama has embraced drone attacks as an important tool in killing “al-Qaeda suspects who are up in very tough terrain along the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan.”
Public opinion polls indicate, however, that the use of armed drones in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Yemen and other areas are a source of bitter resentment in the Muslim world.
A survey conducted by Pew Research in 2012 demonstrated that large majorities in Muslim countries overwhelmingly oppose drone strikes. Another Pew poll, this one from 2011, revealed that nearly 75 per cent of people surveyed in Pakistan view the U.S. as more of an enemy than a partner in the fight against terrorism.
Since 2003, there have been 365 drone attacks in Pakistan, and between 411 and 884 innocent civilians have been killed, according to a study by the British-based Bureau of Investigative Journalism.
Armed drones in Canada are not without their defenders, however.
Liberal MP John McKay (Scarborough-Guildwood, Ont.), his party’s defence critic, told The Hill Times that the use of armed drones is acceptable under some circumstances.
“I have no principled objection to the arming of drones. But, and there’s a big but here, it has to be consistent with international standards of engagement,” Mr. McKay said.
Mr. McKay attributed resentment toward the U.S. in the Muslim world to issues over sovereign air space and unlawful killings of terrorism suspects.
“The problems with Yemen, the problems with Pakistan and other countries is that the use of the drones have not adhered to the international standard so the U.S. is flying an armed airplane into sovereign space of another nation with whom they have not declared war,” Mr. McKay said. “That’s where Obama and that crowd get into trouble. The initial trouble is using that technology for extrajudicial killings. That’s where Obama gets himself into difficulty.”
“The difference between a manned airplane with bombs attached to it and an unmanned airplane with bombs attached to it is a distinction without a difference,” said Mr. McKay.
Alexandre Wilner, a visiting researcher with the University of Toronto’s Munk School of Global Affairs, is a proponent of armed drones.
“Drone technology, simply put, [is the] wave of the future. We’re going to see unmanned use of machines and robots in both surveillance—so policing efforts and those kind of things—but also in terms of military use in all future battlefields. So certainly I think Canadian Forces need those capabilities and probably starting in the air is the best bet,” said Mr. Wilner.
In response to some of the concerns about the use of armed drones, Mr. Wilner said, “Most new technologies when first applied to the battlefield are controversial…there’s a certain degree of pushback.”