Assertion, unsupported by fact, is nugatory. Surmise and general abuse, in however elegant language, ought not to pass for truth. Junius

2006/10/26

That Darn Sovereignty Issue

Yesterday's story "U.S. rules limit hiring at Montreal firm" dual citizens barred from certain positions at aerospace services provider CAE Inc." by Daniel LeBlanc of the Globe and Mail certainly had that familiar ring of extra-territoriality imposed through the U.S. Helms-Burton Act.

It's a devil's problem. First, Canadians who hold a second passport from countries considered dangerous by the US cannot be considered for Canadian based positions in sensitive areas according to the US International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR).

As the Globe mentions,

The Canadian government is refusing to impose ITAR on its own employees, saying the restrictions violate the Charter of Rights and cannot be enforced in Canada.

Under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, it is prohibited to discriminate against Canadian citizens, irrespective of where they were born or whether they retain citizenship in other countries," said Elizabeth Hodges, a spokeswoman for the Department of National Defence.


The Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the Upper Canadian reminds its readers, is not only applicable to the Federal Government. It is the law of the land, applied equally and evenly to all citizens. So why isn't the federal government out protecting the rights of Canadians? Thinking badly, one might come to the conclusion that this might even be a provoked fire: Look! Those darn immigrants with their double nationality hurting Canadian industry! Another reason to make them be real Canadians!

In whatever case, as the Globe failed to point out, there are issues beyond whether or not the Charter is being adhered to (or not) or whether we are witness to a make-believe crisis to strip Canadians of a second citizenship. In a grim multi-billion dollar industry, ITAR is the bane to all wanting and willing to purchase US military material, both outside and inside the USA. Issues of technology transfers are rife, as are the American right to boycott the resale of lesser technologies to third countries perceived as a threat to the national interest and state sovereignty. Others, such as Derek Burney for ambassador the the United States, complain of US protectionism.

Australia, for example, recently chose EADS helicopters over an American equivalent because of ITAR restrictions in computer source codes. Countries are also looking at ways to avoid ITAR altogether. Some Europeans companies, as Defense Weekly pointed out, "already advertise that some of their wares are “ITAR-free” — that is, they are not subjected to the U.S. International Traffic in Arms Regulations, a situation that is likely to increase after the US block of C-295 aircraft sales by Spain to Venezuela. Companies proclaiming "ITAR free" are EADS, Alcatel Space (France), Morotta (UK) and Surrey Satellite Technology (UK).

At the state level, France foresaw the sovereignty issue and adopted a policy of industrial autonomy so as to avoid Washington's tutorship in its military endeavors. This type of response, as Defense Weekly suggested, keeps American arms peddlers up at night since "...the best way to become ITAR-free is to stop buying American-made parts." Even multinationals find the ITAR regulations cumbersome, as Boeing found out when it tried to declare its 787 plane as "ITAR free" since some carbon fibre components are similar to those found in the B-2 stealth bomber. (Think of that the next time you're in one!)

So where does Canada stand? According to Peter McKay, now settling back into the frat house after a trying trip to the outer rim of the galaxy, ITAR requirements are causing snags in Canadian military procurement. Contrary to popular belief, the country is an important importer of military wares. So why isn't our government --- you know, the one seeking for Canada a new distinctive role in foreign affairs --- creating a policy to buy ITAR free planes, helicopters and other toys of destruction to avoid the extraterritoriality of ITAR? Or better, why isn't it suggesting a consortium of trustworthy ITAR free countries and regions? Making strong industrial policy has never been one of the Canadian government's strengths. But perhaps it is high time to end issues of extraterritoriality and restricted technological transfers by promoting "ITAR free" in Canada's military and defence industries.

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