Who Is Pushing Canada To Go on War Footing?

Militarists, warmongers and arms dealers are riding a wave of momentum and they’re organizing to profit as much as possible.

On Tuesday the Canadian Global Affairs Institute (CGAI) hosted a conference titled "Putting Canadian Defence Procurement on a War Footing". The military put up $50,000 for the conference and likely spent tens of thousands of dollars more to cover delegates registration fees ($300) and travel costs. The sponsors list suggests arms manufacturers contributed even more to the conference.

CGAI’s conference seeks to help industry and DND hash out logistical and contractual issues to ramping up arms production. It also seeks to build political momentum on a theme raised by the Chief of the Defence Staff four months ago. At the time Wayne Eyre declared, "given the deteriorating world situation, we need the defence industry to go into a wartime footing and increase their production lines to be able to support the requirements that are out there, whether it’s ammunition, artillery, rockets … you name it."

The Canadian Forces want to replenish the stock of weapons they’ve sent to Ukraine and to increase arms deliveries for their proxy war with Russia. Preparing for conflict with China is the other aim of putting industry on "war footing". Three weeks ago Eyre said China and Russia considered themselves at war with the West and a week ago he added that those two nations will increasingly challenge Canada’s "tenuous hold" over its territory in the Arctic.

While Eyre pretends the Canadian military’s aims are defensive, geography suggests otherwise. Canadian Naval vessels regularly pass through the Taiwan Strait and South China Sea while a decade ago Canada’s military began seeking a small base in Singapore, according to the Canadian Press, "to support the United States’ ‘pivot’ toward Asia to counter a rising China." With regards to Russia, Canada has had a significant deployment of troops in Latvia since 2017 as well as aircraft, soldiers and naval vessels throughout eastern Europe.

CGAI’s "war footing" conference is a sop to its military and industry financiers. Organizing a conference featuring the head of the military to implement his suggestion is remarkably sycophantic even by their low standards.

Formerly the Canadian Defence & Foreign Affairs Institute, CGAI has held joint symposiums with DND, NATO and NORAD. It has also received financial support from a bevy of arms contractors such as General Dynamics, BAE Systems, Boeing, Raytheon and Lockheed Martin. CGAI’s weekly Defence Deconstructed podcast is "made possible thanks to the support of the Department of National Defence’s MINDS Program" and various arms firms.

Unsurprisingly, CGAI promotes a militarist worldview. In a particularly embarrassing display of intellectual prostitution, CGAI published "Canada and Saudi Arabia: A Deeply Flawed but Necessary Partnership," which defended General Dynamics’s $14-billion deal to sell light armored vehicles to the kingdom. At least four of the General Dynamics-funded institute’s fellows wrote columns justifying the sale, including an opinion piece by CGAI analyst David Perry, published in the Globe and Mail’s Report on Business as, "Without foreign sales, Canada’s defence industry would not survive."

Eight months ago PeaceQuest reported a small victory against CGAI’s militarist propaganda. A PeaceQuest member sent the group’s newsletter titled "Experts used by CBC and others funded by weapons companies" to the public broadcaster’s ombudsperson Jack Nagler. In response, Nagler sent a message to the Editor in Chief of CBC News saying journalists should reveal that CGAI is funded by arms firms and the military when quoting David Perry, its president, on military issues.

While probably the most widely quoted military/arms industry front, CGAI is but one of many "independent" think tanks, organizations and university programs funded by the military. DND and Veterans Affairs also give tens of millions of dollars annually to groups organizing war commemorations. But financing pro-militarist think tanks and other groups is only the tip of the military’s propaganda iceberg.

The military has Canada’s largest PR machine. With some 600 communications staff, the Canadian Forces aggressively protects its image and promotes its worldview. DND also operates a history department, post-secondary institution, media outlets and more.

All those who claim the war in Ukraine is only about defending national territory against foreign invaders are ignoring the naked self-interest of outfits like CGAI.

Yves Engler’s latest book is Stand on Guard for Whom?: A People’s History of the Canadian Military.