The Canadian government orders a further review of a sales contract between Bell Helicopter and the Philippines after a Philippine military leader claimed that the 16 aircraft could be used for internal military operations.
International Trade Minister François-Philippe Champagne made the announcement shortly before question period on Wednesday as humanitarian organizations and the New Democrats began to sound the alarm.
In a House scrum, he stated that at the time the Bell Helicopter contract with the Philippine government was concluded in 2012, “the facts indicated” that the aircraft needed to be used for search and rescue purposes.
But recent remarks by a Filipino serviceman have raised concern which has asked the Canadian Commercial Corporation (whose mandate includes the sale of military goods to other countries) to look into the matter, said Mr. Champagne.
Major-General Restituto Padilla, head of Philippine military plans, told Reuters that the 16 helicopters would be used for “military internal security operations”, in addition to missions to help the victims and make rescues.
When we saw this statement, you understand that we immediately launched a review with the competent authorities; and on that basis, we will review the facts and we will make the right decision afterwards.
International Trade Minister François-Philippe Champagne on Tuesday
The archipelago of Southeast Asia has been led since 2016 by an iron fist by an authoritarian president, Rodrigo Duterte, whose government is conducting a bloody crusade against drug traffickers.
In an interview with former Barack Obama strategist David Axelrod, at an event at the University of Chicago Institute of Politics on Wednesday evening, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had to comment on the situation. Mr. Axelrod asked him if he had any concerns about the sale of military equipment to a regime that could use it against his own citizens, and that Mr. Trudeau himself has often criticized himself in the past. .
“Absolutely. We have very strict rules around who we sell and what we can sell to them, whether it’s weapons or military vehicles like helicopters, and the nature of their use, “said Justin Trudeau. We will ensure, before this agreement is reached […] that it meets our security expectations, that it is not in an interest of homeland security and that there is a net benefit for Canadian workers. ”
During question period in the House, the New Democrats called on the government to commit to blocking any transaction that would send equipment that could be used by an army accused of multiple human rights violations.
They stressed that it would be ironic to provide helicopters to President Duterte, who praised himself for having dropped a man from one of these aircraft in mid-air while claiming that he would do it again without hesitation.
The opposition satisfied … for the moment
In response to objections from the second opposition, Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland specified that she had not received any application for an export permit for this contract, since it was originally intended to be non-military equipment.
“I will conduct an extremely rigorous analysis of human rights [for] any potential export license application related to this contract,” she concluded in response to a question from MP Hélène Laverdière.
When she left the Commons, she said she was “partially satisfied” with the minister’s explanations. On the other hand, “in principle”, it “seems quite obvious to him” that Ottawa can not support the shipment of Canadian-made equipment to the Duterte regime.
“For me, no helicopters! Absolutely! There can be no guarantee that it will not be used against civilians, “said Laverdière, adding that the same logic applies in the case of the armored vehicle contract with Saudi Arabia.
The leader of the official opposition, Andrew Scheer, also welcomed the Liberal government’s decision to order a further review of the agreement between Bell Helicopter and Manila.
“It is very important that this review be done, and of course, if Canadian equipment is used [to commit abuses], it would be inappropriate,” he said in a press briefing after question period.
The helicopters are built at a plant in Mirabel, in the Laurentians, which employs 900 people. The contract is confidential, but the Philippine government has set aside nearly $ 300 million for new equipment.