Homes not bombs

Ottawans say No to Harper's terrorism and torture show

Image: Photo of Kuwaiti military staff examining weapon at Cansec. Photo via Homes Not Bombs.
Above, Kuwaiti military officials attending CANSEC weapons bazaar test out the latest in repression before heading home where, according to Amnesty international, "The authorities increased restrictions on freedoms of assembly and expression, including by prosecuting some social media users. Riot police used excessive force, tear gas and stun grenades against peaceful demonstrations by government opponents."


By Matthew Behrens
Nonviolent direct action group
Homes not Bombs

On May 27 in Ottawa, more than 100 joined at various times during the day a protest called Ten Hours Against Terrorism (THAT) outside of the CANSEC weapons fair, one of the largest gatherings of the military industry in North America. 

THAT members have protested for years both at CANSEC and its predecessor, the ARMX weapons fair, going back as far as 1989.

Based on what is exhibited and who is in attendance, CANSEC15 is essentially a terrorism and torture trade show. Raging Grannies and members of the Coalition to Oppose the Arms Trade, as well as Artists Pour la Paix, were also there.

The day’s events featured song, poetry, readings of first-hand accounts of war survivors, testimonies of the disappeared and detained, construction of a graveyard with the names of the exhibitors’ and guests’ victims, a lengthy reading of the names of victims of war technologies sold at CANSEC, and attempts to dialogue with CANSEC attendees.

The Ten Hours Against Terrorism event was based on the understanding that war in any form is terrorism, and, indeed, under Canadian anti-terrorism law, anything that would normally constitute a terrorist act is exempted if it is committed by a member of the armed forces under the “laws” of war.

Based on what is exhibited and who is in attendance, CANSEC15 is essentially a terrorism and torture trade show. Raging Grannies and members of the Coalition to Oppose the Arms Trade, as well as Artists Pour la Paix, were also in attendance.

Homes not Bombs also brought a dozen large 4 foot by 4 foot pictures of behind The Human Face of War, images from Vietnam, Lebanon, Gaza, Afghanistan, and Iraq, among other places, showing the faces of the "collateral damage" euphemism that's employed to dismiss the civilian casualties that inevitably result when CANSEC products are produced, sold, and used.

Protesters found that these human images were very effective in capturing the attention of some CANSEC visitors, while others looked away and refused to answer the commonly asked question: What would you say to these people? What if they were your loved ones?

In addition to over 11,000 visitors, CANSEC hosted 31 international delegations last year in cooperation with the Canadian Commercial Corporation, with the beheading capital of the Middle East, Saudi Arabia, heading the list.

Other regular violators of human rights who are officially touted as 2015 guests include Bahrain (according to Amnesty International, “Children are being routinely detained, ill-treated and tortured in Bahrain.”), Kuwait (repression of women, torture), Israel (well documented by the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel, as well as war crimes documented by Amnesty International), Mexico (the use of torture has grown by 600% in the last decade), Oman (Human Rights Watch reports “rights routinely trampled” and where “Torture has become the state’s knee jerk response to political expression.”), United Arab Emirates (where torture is commonplace with as many as 75% of detainees experiencing abuse), United Kingdom (intensely complicit in the rendition to torture program) and United States (U.S. Senate report on “ruthless” brutality).

Saudi Arabia is not yet officially listed as a guest in 2015 but as the largest purchaser of Canadian weapons, they were sure to be in attendance. As host country, Canada is also complicit in the torture of its own citizens (as established by two separate judicial inquiries as well as Supreme Court and Federal Court decisions) as well as deportation to torture.

When he introduced Bill C-51, Stephen Harper declared: “When you are engaged in activities that explicitly promote or advocate terrorism, that is a serious criminal offence no matter who you are.”

Such a description fits the CANSEC15 gathering, where the weapons sold, when used properly, are tools of terrorism as categorized under Canada's own laws, since they are designed to cause "(A) death or serious bodily harm to a person by the use of violence, (B) endangers a person’s life, (C) causes a serious risk to the health or safety of the public or any segment of the public, (D) causes substantial property damage, whether to public or private property, if causing such damage is likely to result in the conduct or harm referred to in any of clauses (A) to (C), or (E) causes serious interference with or serious disruption of an essential service, facility or system, whether public or private."

More than 100 million people were killed in wars during the 20th century, and there are still whole industries built on the concept that the only way to resolve our differences is through the use of massive violence. Our presence was a reminder that there not only is a better way, there MUST be a better way, otherwise we will continue to create more violence and spawn more hatred around the globe.

The group focused on the effects of drone warfare, as well as the role of the Canadian military in repressing indigenous peoples from coast to coast, as well as the Descahmps report on sexual violence in the Canadian military.

Homes not Bombs and allied groups plan  to be at the entrance to CANSEC once more in 2016. Foir more information visit or