In the wake of a controversial deal to sell combat helicopters to the Philippines, the Trudeau government has ordered a shakeup of the Crown corporation that brokered the contract and a retreat on international arms sales.
International Trade Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne said Tuesday that the Canadian Commercial Corporation will become less reliant on setting up contracts for weapons. “We wanted to diversity our portfolio,” he told reporters. “We will be less reliant on the defence sector.”
Champagne also said he had appointed a new chair of the board of the corporation, which helps co-ordinates sales of Canadian products to international customers.
B.C. businessman Doug Harrison will take over from Stephen Sorocky, who had been serving as interim chair since 2016.
Champagne said the decision to bring in a new head for the corporation was not related to the helicopter deal.
But the change in direction – with less emphasis on arms deals – comes after the proposed sale of the 16 Bell helicopters, which were to be built in Mirabel, Que., sparked controversy last week. Human rights advocates expressed disbelief that Canada was selling the aircraft to the Philippines, considering the country’s poor human rights record under President Rodrigo Duterte, who is being investigated by the International Criminal Court over allegations he has committed crimes against humanity during his brutal domestic war on drugs.
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The Canadian government announced it was ordering a review into the US$234 million sale because of concerns the helicopters could be used in the country’s ongoing efforts against its own people. That announcement so angered Duterte that he publicly ordered the deal cancelled.
Champagne confirmed Tuesday that the government received official notice that the Philippines was terminating the contract.
The Canadian Commercial Corporation didn’t raise any red flags at the time about dealing with Duterte’s government, despite a number of human rights reports chronicling various abuses by government security forces.
The corporation also played a central role in brokering the deal to sell Canadian armoured vehicles to Saudi Arabia. That contract was also controversial because of the Middle East country’s poor human rights record.
“When the Canadian Commercial Corporation is involved in arms deals of this sort there often seems to be a lack of rigour when it comes to human rights concerns,” said Alex Neve, secretary general for Amnesty International Canada.
A Philippine Air Force chaplain blesses a newly-delivered Bell 412 helicopter during a christening ceremony in Manila in 2015.
Two days before Canada said it would review the sale of helicopters to the Philippines, Duterte announced at a meeting that he would be issuing new orders to soldiers when it came to dealing with Communist insurgents. “Tell the soldiers. ‘There’s a new order coming. We won’t kill you. We will just shoot your vagina.”
The president suggested in his Feb. 7 speech that wounding women in their genitals …read more