Ottawa says it will halt Burlington-made technology if abuses are discovered

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October 2, 2020 at 3:19 pm

The federal government says it will halt the export of a Burlington-made laser targeting device if the technology is involved in human rights abuses.

The federal government says it will halt the export of a Burlington-made laser targeting device if the technology is involved in human rights abuses.

The high-tech sensors are made by L3Harris WESCAM of Burlington.

In a recently released report, Canadian disarmament group Project Ploughshares claims the device is being used by the Turkish military to supply drones across several conflict zones in the Middle East.

In an interview with The Canadian Press, Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne says he’s willing to stop military export permits to NATO ally Turkey if an investigation determines the Canadian technology is leading to human rights abuses.

“I’ve immediately directed our officials to investigate the claims,” Champagne said in the interview. “I’m willing to suspend or cancel any permit that is found . . . to have been misused.”

L3Harris WESCAM, a Canadian subsidiary of the American company L3Harris, has not commented on the matter.

Project Ploughshares says the technology contravenes Canada’s domestic laws and international obligations and “poses a substantial risk of facilitating human suffering, including violations of human rights and international humanitarian law.” It is backed by other disarmament and human rights groups as well as the NDP.

Earlier this week, a group calling itself the Rojava Solidarity Collective supporting Kurdish civilians, held a protest in front of the Burlington manufacturing facility claiming the technology is used by the Turkish military to attack Kurds.

Turkey also faces allegations it is involved in this week’s renewed fighting between Armenia and Azerbaijan. Turkey, a member of NATO with Canada, has said it supports Azerbaijan in renewed fighting with Armenia that broke out Sunday in a disputed region in the South Caucasus separatist region of Nagorno-Karabakh.

Armenia has accused Turkey of redeploying fighters from Syria and F-16 fighter jets to support Azerbaijani forces, but Turkey has denied sending people or arms to the conflict.

Champagne and his British counterpart, Dominic Raab, have expressed concern over the wide-scale military action between Armenia and Azerbaijan and are calling on them to peacefully negotiate through the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe.

Champagne said he is committed to “upholding the highest standards” when reviewing export permit requests from companies, including Canada’s commitment to the United Nations Arms Trade Treaty. 

“I’ve been talking with the different interest groups, which have raised these issues, and I take their concerns seriously,” he said.

Champagne declined to say how long his department’s investigation would take. He said it would consult with NATO and other allies to “get the best possible intelligence.”

with files from Mike Blanchfield, The Canadian Press.

Supporters of Kurdish civilians protest outside Burlington facility on September 28

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