We’re Not Talking About A Few Cameras. We’re Talking About Armenian Blood On Canadian Hands

A Bayraktar drone camera made in Canada

(OTTAWA – October 20, 2020) – “I just want also to put it in perspective. We’re talking about a few cameras.”

This is how Minister of Foreign Affairs Francois-Philippe Champagne described Canada granting export permits for the sale of target acquisition sensors to Turkey.

What the Minister omitted to mention is that:

  • Canada banned all arms sales to Turkey in October 2019 because of the Turkish invasion of northern Syria.
  • Minister Champagne created a loophole to his own decision by allowing exports for use in NATO operations, knowing full well that Turkey had provided weapons to its allies in Syrian and Libyan groups contrary to arms control treaties and international law.
  • Over 15 export permits were granted to the Ontario company L3Harris Wescam for the shipment of target acquisition sensors to Turkey.
  • Each export permit covers more than one target acquisition sensor. No one knows exactly how many target acquisition sensors are now in Turkish hands.
  • Target acquisition sensors are not cameras, they are deadly weapons. They are the part of the drone that allows guided munitions to actually do damage and kill people. A drone is a child’s toy without a target acquisition sensor.
  • These Canadian-made target acquisition sensors are an essential component of the Turkish Bayraktar TB2 drone.
  • Turkey provided these drones (including the Canadian-made target acquisition sensors) to Azerbaijan.
  • These Turkish provided drones are being used to devastating effect by Azerbaijan on the battlefield, but they are also deployed on Armenian civilians and deployed on civilian infrastructures.
  • The civilian deaths thus far in Artaskh are equivalent to over 12,000 dead Canadians (25% more than the Canadian COVID-19 death toll).

No doubt Minister Champagne was hoping that the media would ignore all these facts and just report that this issue was only about “a few cameras”. Perhaps he thought the public would lose interest and his problem would go away.

Unfortunately for Minister Champagne, on October 19, 2020, the Defense Army of the Republic of Artsakh shot down a Turkish Bayraktar TB2 drone over the southern part of Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabakh) and recovered its L3Harris/WESCAM CMX-15D target acquisition system in largely intact condition. This system was manufactured in Ontario in June 2020 and installed on the drone in September 2020. Pictures and videos of the target acquisition system have been shared widely by the Government of Armenia.

Minister Champagne can no longer hide behind an investigation or dismiss reporters’ questions by saying this is about “a few cameras”. There is irrefutable evidence that Turkey and Azerbaijan are in violation of their obligations under both Canadian and international arms control regimes.

This was never about a “few cameras”. It is about whether or not Canada will uphold its own laws in the face of rogue regimes that have abused our trust. It is about whether or not Canada will become complicit in Azerbaijani war crimes. And most of all, this is about whether or not Canada can, in good conscience, stand idle while our best technology is used to bring about the annihilation of the Armenian people.

Minister Champagne must immediately ban all arms export to Turkey and sanction Turkey for violating Canadian and international arms control laws. Canada must also pressure the international community to ban arms sales to Turkey and Azerbaijan. This is the least Canada can do, unless Minister Champagne actually believes that this is only about “a few cameras”.