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TAKE ACTION --- Be Heard - No Attack Drones!

World  (tags: Canada, 'HUMANRIGHTS!', death, ethics, society, violence, war, politics, Harper )

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Lynn Squance (235)
Wednesday March 20, 2013, 2:57 pm
Canada should reject armed drones

Op-ed: Canada should reject armed drones

Is Mali the next opportunity to pitch an armed drone program as a contribution to both the French campaign there and the US-led war against al Qaeda in Western Africa?

Steven Staples and Meagan McCorkle
March 6, 2013

If the Canadian Forces possessed a fleet of armed drones, would Prime Minister Stephen Harper be readying them for Mali?

It’s an important question, given the Canadian military’s long-standing desire for Predators and the government’s interest in providing military support to the French troops battling ethnic Tuareg and Islamist rebels in the former West African colony, while avoiding putting any Canadian troops in harm’s way.
Along with the transport capability provided by our heavy-lift CC-117 cargo planes, drones would be an obvious choice for a Canadian contribution to the counter-insurgency mission.

The Americans are already flying unarmed drones over Mali from neighbouring Niger to provide the French military with surveillance capability. The United States military is establishing a new, larger drone base in Niger, and officials told the New York Times that, for now, Predator drones will be unarmed and will fly only on surveillance missions, although they have not ruled out conducting missile strikes at some point if the threat worsens.

The new base shows the US has clearly identified West Africa as the next front in its controversial drone war, and Canada could climb aboard.

Weaponized drones for the Canadian Forces is an issue that has completely avoided scrutiny in Ottawa, even though plans to acquire new drones have been progressing slowly through National Defence for several years. That’s likely because the Joint Uninhabited Surveillance and Target Acquisition System, or JUSTAS, program is being touted as providing a high-altitude long endurance capability for Arctic sovereignty, not for remotely controlled assassination missions.

But buried inside the JUSTAS program is a more lethal variety of drones. National Defence’s report on major Crown projects for 2012-2013 noted that 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.”

Of course drones aren’t new to the Canadian Forces. The unarmed Heron aircraft deployed in Afghanistan is used for surveillance purposes. But to weaponize the Canadian drone program, the military could outfit the Herons with ground attack missiles, or acquire a fleet of the notorious Reaper MQ-9, the drone so widely used by the CIA in Pakistan and Eastern Africa. These drones can fire up to 14 Hellfire missiles.

The military has used every opportunity to argue for armed drones, but the government has not given the authorization as yet. In 2007 The Ottawa Citizen reported that National Defence had asked the Conservative government for approval to buy the US-built Predator drones for the Afghanistan mission.

But that request was denied because of concerns in Cabinet and the federal bureaucracy that the deal would be non-competitive.

In 2009, military officers were once again pushing for missile-equipped Herons operating out of Kandahar Air Field, but the costs and the anticipated end of the mission were just too much.

Then came the air war over Libya in 2011, and another chance to pitch for armed drones. Documents obtained by the Citizen showed that military leaders saw the Libyan war as a possible way to move its stalled drone program forward. The cost was $600 million, but the Libyan war ended before the military could get the armed drone program approved and airborne.

Now there is Mali. Is this the next opportunity to pitch an armed drone program as a contribution to both the French campaign in Mali and the US-led war against al Qaeda in Western Africa?

Let’s hope that this program continues to be delayed indefinitely. Here’s why.
First, the legal standing of the use of these weapons is gravely in doubt. “The US policy of using aerial drones to carry out targeted killings presents a major challenge to the system of international law that has endured since the Second World War,” said United Nations special rapporteur Christof Heyns.

Second, drone attacks dramatically undermine the ability to win the support of the local population, a key reason for NATO’s failure in Afghanistan. Stanley A. McChrystal, the retired US general who led the Joint Special Operations Command responsible for the military’s drone strikes, told Reuters that drones could be a useful tool but were “hated on a visceral level” in some of the places where they were used and contributed to a “perception of American arrogance.”

Third, there’s growing concerns over civilians killed by the houseful in the pursuit of targeting people by drones. The US carries out such strikes in Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia, often far from any battlefield and without warning. The Bureau of Investigative Journalism estimates that as many as 1,007 innocent civilians have been killed by drone strikes since 2004, including 175 children.

Has the Canadian government considered the legal, operational and moral implications of the use of armed drones in this manner? Is the Canadian public, which is accustomed to watching the furor over drones play out on American television, even aware of what our military has in store for Canada?

I doubt it. That’s why the Harper government should limit its JUSTAS program to investigating the use of unarmed drones for surveillance roles abroad, and Arctic sovereignty and monitoring roles in Canada, and slam the door shut on armed drones for the Canadian Forces.

Steven Staples is the president of the Rideau Institute. Meagan McCorkle is an intern at the institute through the Human Rights program at Carleton University.
Photo credit: USAF

Please join me in telling PM Harper that this is morally reprehensible and wrong!

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JL A (281)
Wednesday March 20, 2013, 5:57 pm
M3H 6A7 (ONT)

Such weaponry is too scary not to object to...

Kit B (276)
Wednesday March 20, 2013, 8:21 pm

N8N 0A1 Windsor ONT - Canada - signed

James Maynard (84)
Wednesday March 20, 2013, 10:44 pm
Signed and noted Lynn.

. (0)
Thursday March 21, 2013, 2:30 pm

P A (117)
Friday March 22, 2013, 2:30 am
By the way there are many alerts out from charities appealing for urgent donations for the millions displaced by the terrible war in Syria - if anyone can give......

. (0)
Friday March 22, 2013, 9:03 am
signed N5VA01 London Ontario - ty Lynn and Philip & Sara for the fw

. (0)
Friday March 22, 2013, 10:49 am
done and thanks Pat..

Juliana Saxberg (3)
Friday March 22, 2013, 6:58 pm
scary. Signed noted and shared.

Nancy Black (308)
Saturday March 23, 2013, 12:33 pm
Noted, tweeted, tweeted, shared could not sign because don't live in Canada.

Sandra ;atterson (59)
Saturday March 23, 2013, 4:33 pm
signed and noted

Lynn Squance (235)
Wednesday March 27, 2013, 3:05 pm
Here is a copy of the e-mail I received today re the attack drone petition:

Thank you for your email concerning the Harper Conservatives plan to purchase attack drones.
While I support defending Canada and its citizens from foreign invasion or attack, I do not support the purchase of unnecessary military weapons. I support Canada’s right to survey its own territory and borders, but favour diplomacy and peace-building over military action.
As it stands, there are no plans to purchase armed attack drones, but rather unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to survey Canada’s Arctic. The proposed drone program, the Joint Uninhabited Surveillance and Target Acquisition System (JUSTAS), plans to buy Global Hawk drones from the United States. Global Hawks drones are unmanned aerial vehicles which would give the military the ability to survey Canada’s Arctic at high altitudes from coast to coast. They are not armed, nor are they weapons.
As development increases in the Arctic, Canada’s ability to respond to environmental pollution and disaster as well as deal with increased shipping and maritime activity will become important. The ability for the military to survey the Arctic from coast to coast using UAVs allows Canada to assert its sovereignty in the North while providing a resource in case of disaster or illegal activity.
Nevertheless, I am concerned about a militarization of our North and of pressure for unstable development. Our Arctic agenda should be more supportive of Inuit sustainability and less military muscle.
Elizabeth May O.C., M.P.
Member of Parliament, Saanich-Gulf Islands
Leader, Green Party of Canada

I certainly hope that Elizabeth May is correct in that the drones are unarmed. Having lived in northern BC and knowing just how remote Canada's far north is, I would support surveillance drones to patrol the area for various reason. Canada's far north is very beautiful, but also, especially in the dead of winter, very unforgiving.

Lynn Squance (235)
Thursday March 28, 2013, 6:13 pm
I received a second e-mail from Elizabeth May, Leader of the Green Party and new information on attack drones is coming to light. As she says, PM Harper has cloaked everything in secrecy as is his way, and there are indeed plans within DND to purchase predator drones. SO, KEEP UP THE FIGHT PLEASE. Here is the 2nd e-mail:

I am writing you again to follow up on the email we sent yesterday regarding the danger of Canada's potential purchase of attack drones, as raised by the Rideau Institute and
In my initial letter, I stated that Canada has no immediate plans to purchase weaponized drones, and that the current plan is to acquire unarmed surveillance drones only. While it is true that the Joint Uninhabited Surveillance and Target Acquisition System (JUSTAS) program intends to purchase Global Hawk drones for surveillance of the Canadian Arctic, we have since learned that there is much more to the story.
After conferring with the Rideau Institute, we now realize that within DND there are efforts to gain approval for the purchase of attack drones such as Predators and Reapers.
The Department of National Defence has been attempting to obtain these unjustifiable weapons for years.
In the now well-worn fashion of the Harper Conservatives, these plans have been cloaked in secrecy. As an MP I have tools available and will use them to press for solid information on these plans.
The good news is that there is still time to act, as the final political approval has not yet been given. This is the importance of's latest campaign, as only a groundswell of public opposition to these morally bankrupt weapons will deter their unnecessary purchases with our tax dollars.
I apologize for any confusion and commit to do everything possible to defend Canadian values and stand up for the role of Canada as a peacemaker and peacekeeper in the world.
Elizabeth May O.C., M.P.
Member of Parliament, Saanich-Gulf Islands
Leader, Green Party of Canada
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