Just before Canada halted certain weapons exports to Turkey in April 2021, the FAAE committee released nearly 1,000 pages of government documents on Canada’s arms deals with Turkey. Although heavily redacted, the documents provide an unmatched look into the Canadian arms trade, including previously confidential memoranda to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, hundreds of pages of internal correspondence by Global Affairs Canada (GAC), and never-before-seen Canadian export permits for weapon systems.
On October 24, Radio Canada International reported that Canadian-based Bombardier Recreational Products (BRP) had suspended the export of aircraft engines to “countries with unclear usage.” This action followed reports that these engines were being used in Turkish-built Bayraktar TB2 unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) that Turkey had sent to support Azeri forces in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
On October 5, under mounting pressure from civil society and the Armenian diaspora community, Global Affairs Canada (GAC) suspended exports of Canadian-made L3Harris WESCAM surveillance and targeting sensors to Turkey. These sensors had been found on Turkish-made Bayraktar TB2 unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs or drones) that were illicitly diverted to Azerbaijan by ally Turkey for use in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
Ploughshares Communications Officer Tasneem Jamal spoke with Kelsey Gallagher about the genesis of Killer Optics, the impact of its publication, and the role of open-source data in tracking arms transfers.
According to Canada’s 2019 Exports of Military Goods report, last year Canada exported weapons worth almost $4-billion—the highest value on public record. Saudi Arabia, which received 76 per cent of those weapons, is now almost certainly Canada’s prime customer, unseating the United States.
Since 2017, Turkey has been a major customer for WESCAM products, second only to the United States. During this time, the Turkish military has not only been active in trying to put down an insurgency in southeast Turkey, but has become increasingly involved in armed conflicts in Syria, Iraq, and Libya.