that the federal government appears to have flip-flopped on joining the U.S.'s Star Wars plans - foreign affairs minister Bill Graham says now that Canada should have a seat at the table - should not come as a shock to Canadians. While public debate has framed the issue in the narrow "Should Canada join?" question, it misses the real point - that this country has already made a commitment to the overall framework defining space as the newest, most profitable medium for warfare.
Leading the research charge here is Defence Research and Development Canada (DRDC), an agency within the Department of National Defense, which coordinates five federally funded research facilities including the Ottawa-based Defence Research Establishment Ottawa, or DREO.
DREO's Web site boasts of its capacity to "exploit the electromagnetic spectrum" and develop a diverse range of war-waging technologies, including "space systems and technologies for defence applications."
Indeed, DREO is involved in a Star Wars research program called the QWIP, Quantum Well Infrared Photodetector.
DREO military research reports obtained by the Ottawa Citizen in January 2001 say the QWIP system has "significant implications for future exploitation to support U.S. space-based infrared surveillance systems, surveillance from space and missile defence applications."
DREO also hosted a visit in November 2000 from a leading U.S. Star Wars cheerleader, Dr. Hans Mark.
In his presentation to DREO researchers and staff, he used his own experience in the development of high-energy lasers to illustrate the point that it can take several decades for technologies and processes to realize applications in military systems.
The ability to station lightweight platforms in space that have the capacity to launch directed energy or laser-beam weapons against terrestrial targets is a key part of the U.S. Space Command document Vision 2020, the primary inspiration for Star Wars.
And Canada's DRDC has been right on side. Its 2002 annual report notes that one outcome of the Canadian Defence Industrial Research program has been the development of products useful for, among other things, the Star Wars "exo-atmosphere kill vehicle."
Related technology being developed in Canada - including space-based radar and use of Canada's RADARSAT-2 satellite to produce "a ground moving target indication (GMTI) capability" - will "provide an improved operational picture to the war fighter."
The DRDC report notes without any irony that "there is a high level of U.S. interest in the GMTI project, as the employment of such sensor technology is key to any space warfare capacity.
Cambridge, Ontario-based COM DEV, long a developer of space technology, was one of the corporate consultants to the U.S. Vision 2020 document, which concludes that "space systems are crucial to this nation's ability to wage war."
Given that COM DEV controls 80 per cent of the world market for the type of satellites likely to be crucial to Star Wars, the company would reap the benefits of potential contracts arising from a vision they helped create.
The U.S. and Canadian militaries, in fact, signed a joint statement of intent to militarize the heavens back in 1997 on the understanding that such an agreement "is in the mutual security and economic interests" of both countries. The Canadian government's Technology Investment Strategy 2000 goes even further, declaring that "for future coalition warfare, space superiority will be fundamental."
Never far behind in such matters, the Canadian military industry smells blood, and a potential profit windfall.
In 2000, the Canadian Defence Industries Association produced a paper called The National Missile Defence Program: An Assessment Of Market Opportunities For Canadian Industry. The report concludes that Canada can expect a minimum of $270 million in National Missile Defence exports over the next 15 years. "With appropriate levels of government and industry action, there is a potential for that to increase to more than $1 billion." Canada, since 1980, has spent more than a third of a trillion dollars on warfare.
The $100 million pledged last week to help rebuild Iraq, destroyed in part through the use of Canadian-made weapons systems, is a nice PR move that fails to acknowledge that an equivalent amount was spent annually since 1991 on warships in the Gulf enforcing deadly sanctions against the people of Iraq.
Matthew Behrens is a founding member of Homes Not Bombs.