ARMX '89 and the Coalition to Oppose the Arms Trade

By Richard Sanders

Between May 23 and 25, ARMX '89, Canada's massive exhibit of military technology, will fill the exhibit halls and fairgrounds of Lansdowne Park, Ottawa. Three-quarters of the 400 exhibiting corporations are Canadian; the rest will bring their elaborate displays from 16 other countries. About 12,000 "buyers and users"--military and political delegations from 50 countries--are expected to attend!

Many of these countries, such as Chile, South Korea and Taiwan (which attended ARMX '87), flagrantly abuse human rights. This manifestation of the global arms trade, driven by the profit motive and paid for by taxpayers, exposes the myth of "Canada as Peacemaker." No consideration is given to the morality of the military product's end-uses. With ARMX, Canada aids worldwide war and repression.

ARMX is an unrivalled venue for the boom military export business. Its glossy promotionals say, "Your company can be right in the centre of intense buying action-the most effective and productive of the year-A great opportunity for foreign corporations to sell to Canada and for Canadian companies to promote export capabilities."

This lucrative business props up repressive regimes in the "Free World" which give multinational corporations access to their cheap labor and natural resources. While Canada struggles to maintain its image as a global peacebroker, it remains complicit in an unjust global economic order, which is maintained and perpetuated by the deadly arms trade.

A coalition of groups and individuals has formed, calling themselves the Coalition to Oppose the Arms Trade (COAT). So far, about 45 organizations have endorsed COAT and we are growing rapidly. We can call public attention to various interrelated issues: peace, development, human rights, nuclear disarmament, economic conversion, refugees, and solidarity with First Nations. ARMX has given us a chance to link the diverse groups working in the social change movement.

Coalition work was planned at a January 10 meeting attended by about 60 people. We will (1) organize a huge rally in Ottawa on May 22 (Victoria Day); (2) organize a public inquiry on the global effects of the arms trade; and (3) serve as a clearinghouse on activities of groups within COAT. The Alliance for Non-Violent Action (ANVA) plans to organize non-violent civil resistance actions during ARMX to inhibit the war-business-as-usual. ANVA is building coalitions in Toronto, Montréal and Kingston, to bus people to the rally.

Recognizing the growing public awareness and opposition, ARMX coordinator Lt. Col. Northrup told the Ottawa Citizen that he'll "beef up security to thwart any attacks on exhibitors or visitors. . .(and that) organizers will spend $60,000 to protect the three-day event in the face of threatened disruptions." (Wed., Jan. 11, 1989) The hypocrisy would be laughable if it were not so deadly. Who will protect the innocent civilians around the world who will be attacked by the equipment promoted at ARMX, used by brutal military governments? Join COAT! Contact Richard Sanders, 489 Metcalfe St., Ottawa K1S 3N7. Phone: (613) 231 3076.

Peace Magazine Apr-May 1989

Peace Magazine Apr-May 1989, page 15. Some rights reserved.

Search for other articles by Richard Sanders here

Peace Magazine homepage