Disarmament group calls on Canada to ban exports of military drone tech used by Turkey


A Canadian NGO is calling on Ottawa to ban exports of Canadian-produced sensors and laser targeting technology used by Turkish military drones deployed by Ankara across several conflict zones in the Middle East and Libya.

Disarmament group Project Ploughshares says the multimillion-dollar exports of high-tech sensors and targeting technology produced by L3Harris WESCAM in Burlington, Ont., are in direct contravention of Canada’s domestic laws and its international obligations under the United Nations Arms Trade Treaty (ATT), to which the Trudeau government acceded almost exactly a year ago.

In a major report released Tuesday, Project Ploughshares says “Canada’s export of WESCAM sensors to Turkey poses a substantial risk of facilitating human suffering, including violations of human rights and international humanitarian law.”

The report also alleges that the Turkish military “has committed serious breaches of international humanitarian law and other violations, particularly when conducting airstrikes” with the assistance of its Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs).

A ‘callous disregard for civilian lives’

“During recent operations, Turkish security forces have been repeatedly accused of indiscriminate airstrikes and targeting of civilians and civilian sites such as hospitals, schools, cultural locations and critical infrastructure,” the report says.

“Reports from international human rights monitors show that recent Turkish operations demonstrate ‘an utterly callous disregard for civilian lives, launching unlawful deadly attacks in residential areas that have killed and injured civilians.'”

It appears that Turkey also has exported UAVs equipped with WESCAM sensors to armed groups in Libya, which would be a blatant breach of the nearly decade-old UN arms embargo, the report adds.

L3Harris WESCAM, the Canadian subsidiary of U.S. defence giant L3Harris, is one of the world’s leading producers and exporters of electro-optical/infra-red (EO/IR) imaging and targeting sensor systems, with approximately $500 million in annual exports, according to the Project Ploughshares report.

Canadian tech critical to Turkish drones: NGO

These WESCAM imaging and targeting sensor systems — which basically allow drone operators to see what’s happening on the ground and paint targets for airstrikes, either by the drone’s own missiles or by other aircraft — are critical to Turkey’s ability to produce military drones, said Kelsey Gallagher, a Project Ploughshares researcher and the author of the report.

“These sensors are integral for their ability to conduct drone warfare, which they’ve done increasingly … in the past few years across several conflict zones,” Gallagher told Radio Canada International. “If the exports of these sensors were completely halted, then Turkey would not have the sensors necessary to conduct modern airstrikes.”

Turkey has been working on developing its own sensors and targeting systems but they are too heavy to be placed on Turkish-produced drones, making continued exports of WESCAM sensors a matter of national security from Ankara’s perspective, Gallagher said.

The export of these WESCAM sensor systems has continued despite Ottawa’s freeze of defence exports to Turkey, which was announced in October of 2019 after Ankara’s incursion into Kurdish-controlled areas of northern Syria, Gallagher said.

At the time, Global Affairs Canada said Turkey’s “unilateral action risks undermining the stability of an already fragile region, exacerbating the humanitarian situation and rolling back progress achieved by the Global Coalition Against Daesh, of which Turkey is a member.”

Gallagher said exports of WESCAM sensors nearly stopped in the early part of 2020 but increased again in spring, even as Canada extended its freeze on most arms exports to Turkey in April.

“This corresponds with some communication between the government of Canada and the government of Turkey that was reported to deal with an exemption on WESCAM systems specifically,” Gallagher said.

“As far as we understand, all other arms export permits [to Turkey] are still understood to be under a presumption of denial … with the exception of WESCAM.”

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, left, welcomes Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to the G-20 summit in Antalya, Turkey, Sunday, Nov. 15, 2015. (Lefteris Pitarakis/Associated Press)

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau specifically discussed the issue of WESCAM exports to Turkey with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan during a phone conversation in April, according to sources who spoke with Radio Canada International on condition of anonymity.

Officials at the Prime Minister’s Office refused to comment on the issue, pointing only to the readout of a phone conversation between Trudeau and Erdogan on Apr. 23. That readout deals mostly with both countries’ response to the pandemic and only mentions cryptically that the two leaders also “discussed the trade and economic relationship between the two countries.”

The Turkish arms company Baykar Defence, one of the principal producers of military drones that use WESCAM sensors and targeting systems, also hired an Ottawa lobbyist to raise the issue with Canadian officials.

According to the website of the Office of the Commissioner of Lobbying of Canada, the lobbyist hired by the Turkish arms maker met with a high-ranking Canadian official in the Privy Council Office on Feb. 12, 2020.

Officials at the Turkish embassy in Ottawa referred questions about conversations between Trudeau and Erdogan back to the Prime Minister’s Office. They also dismissed the Project Ploughshares report’s allegations as “completely false.”

“We completely reject any accusations against Turkey that are in that report,” the embassy said. “They are completely not true, they are completely false.”

‘Propaganda of a terrorist organization’

The embassy said Turkey’s operations against the Kurdistan Workers’ Party — known by the acronym PKK (Partiya Karkerên Kurdistanê) — its Syrian offshoot the Democratic Union Party (PYD) and the PYD’s military wing, the People’s Protection Units (YPG), were completely justified under international law because PKK is considered a terrorist organization by Turkey, the U.S., EU and Canada.

The embassy said it “completely rejected any claims it has violated international humanitarian law.”

“This is just propaganda of a terrorist organization,” the embassy said, adding that Turkey takes “utmost care” to avoid civilian casualties in Syria and Iraq.

The embassy did not, however, deny claims that Turkey has provided military assistance, including drones, to the internationally recognized government of Libya.

“In Libya, Turkey is supporting the legitimate government against a warlord, [Khalifa] Haftar, and this is in line with the international law,” the embassy said.

John Babcock, a spokesperson for Global Affairs Canada, said Canada has one of the strongest export controls systems in the world and protection of human rights is enshrined in Canadian export controls legislation.

“Canada will consider on a case-by-case basis whether there are exceptional circumstances, including but not limited to NATO cooperation programs, that might justify issuing an export permit for military items,” Babcock said in an emailed statement.

“All new permit applications for controlled items, regardless of the destination, will continue to be reviewed under Canada’s robust risk assessment framework, including against the Arms Trade Treaty criteria, which are enshrined in Canada’s Export and Import Permits Act.”

Global Affairs Canada does not comment on individual permits or permit applications, he added.

“We have an obligation to protect confidential information about the commercial activities of individual companies,” Babcock said.

Officials with L3Harris WESCAM did not respond to Radio Canada International’s request for comment in time for publication.



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Eric Hipwood calls for greater accuracy from Brisbane Lions


Lions forward Eric Hipwood admits Brisbane’s goal-kicking skills remain a work in progress but is confident the worst is over.

Brisbane’s poor conversion rate has been a problem for most of the season and probably cost them the minor premiership considering they finished on the same points as first-placed Port Adelaide only to be nudged into second spot on percentage.

In 17 regular season matches, the Lions kicked 165 goals and 194 behinds.

It’s the most behinds kicked by any team this season.

“I looked at it as a positive thing that we were getting so many shots – we just weren’t converting them,” Hipwood said.

But signs of accuracy improvement have been evident in the Lions’ past three games, in which they have kicked 35 goals compared to 29 behinds.

“We knew it was going to take a while and we’re starting to reap the benefits, but yet again it can change pretty quickly so we’ve got to keep honing down on our skill and continue our improvement,” Hipwood said.

“It’s been a marginal gain for us, and we seem to be improving a little bit but we can’t stop now. We’ve got to be improving on our goalkicking.”

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Hipwood, who regular season goal accuracy of 45.1 per cent was below AFL average, was adamant the constant focus on Brisbane’s goal-kicking problems this season had not played on the Lions’ minds.

“It doesn’t affect us at all. We’ve just got to listen to the people within our four walls,” he said.

“There’s obviously going to be some sort of scrutiny on us no matter how well we’re going.

“I was always very optimistic and it didn’t faze me too much.

“It just takes a while for things to come.”

A lack of accuracy also cost the Lions dearly in their qualifying final loss to Richmond last season.

The Tigers won 18.4 (112) to 8.17 (65) at the Gabba to send the Lions into a sudden-death semi-final a week later that they lost to the GWS Giants.

Brisbane again host Richmond in a qualifying final on Friday week, with Hipwood confident of a different outcome despite the Lions have not beaten the Tigers since 2009.

“We’ll look at teams that have beaten them and we’ve analysed them a fair bit,” he said.

“They’re a quality side and we’re going to have to be at our best to match it with them.

“I treat every game like it’s our last. That’s my mental approach to it and I don’t think too much will change.”





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Climate Week: Prince Charles calls for ‘swift’ action on climate change


The Prince of Wales has warned the climate crisis will “dwarf” the impact of coronavirus.

In a recorded message, to be played at the virtual opening of Climate Week on Monday, Prince Charles said “swift and immediate action” was needed.

The prince said Covid-19 provided a “window of opportunity” to reset the economy for a more “sustainable and inclusive future”.

He added that the pandemic was “a wake-up call we cannot ignore”.

In his message, recorded from Birkhall in the grounds of Balmoral, Prince Charles said: “Without swift and immediate action, at an unprecedented pace and scale, we will miss the window of opportunity to ‘reset’ for… a more sustainable and inclusive future.”

“[The environmental] crisis has been with us for far too many years – decried, denigrated and denied,” he said.

“It is now rapidly becoming a comprehensive catastrophe that will dwarf the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.”

His comments come as a new poll suggests there is growing concern among citizens all over the world about climate change, although there are big differences about the level of urgency required to tackle the issue.

Charles, 71, tested positive for coronavirus in March after displaying mild symptoms.

He has been championing environmental causes for decades and has previously called for members of the Commonwealth to work together to tackle climate change.

In January, he urged business and political leaders to embrace a sustainable future at the Davos summit, where he also met teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg.

The global lockdown led to a dramatic drop in greenhouse gases and air pollutants but a study last month suggested this would have a “negligible” impact on rising temperatures.

The analysis suggested that by 2030, global temperatures would only be 0.01C lower than expected.

But the researchers, led by the University of Leeds, stressed that a green recovery could significantly alter the long term outlook and keep the world from exceeding 1.5C of warming by the middle of this century.



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Coronavirus latest: Calls for Indonesian election delay after 63 candidates test positive


George Russell in Hong Kong

Australia is on track to economic reopening despite a brutal second wave of coronavirus concentrated in Victoria, its second-most populous state, prime minister Scott Morrison said at the weekend.

Victoria on Sunday recorded just 14 new coronavirus cases in the previous 24 hours, the lowest daily level in more than three months. The state chief health officer, Brett Sutton, said Victoria was on the “home stretch” towards ending a strict lockdown.

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However, the state, with 25 per cent of the country’s population, accounts for 761 deaths, more than 85 per cent of the national total.

On Sunday, Mr Morrison hailed the latest national unemployment data, which showed the rate unexpectedly fell from a high of 7.5 per cent in July to 6.8 per cent in August.

He said it was difficult to foresee if unemployment would continue to fall.

“The figures that came out this week were a pleasant encouragement in terms of their improvement but for those who still don’t have a job, that is no comfort to them,” he told state broadcaster ABC’s Insiders programme.

Mr Morrison said the jobless data show Australia is on the right track in rebuilding its coronavirus-shattered economy, which went into recession for the first time in nearly three decades.

The apparent ease in the pandemic will mean Australia would toughen its eligibility rules for JobSeeker, the unemployment benefit plan that the government hopes to scale down. More than 1m Australians who rely on the payment will have to prove they are applying for eight jobs a month.

On Friday, Mr Morrison compared the 12.2 per cent June quarter gross domestic product contraction in New Zealand, which imposed a harsh lockdown, with the 7 per cent drop in Australia, which has seen more relaxed measures and several anti-lockdown protests, pictured.

New Zealand officials point out that there have been 1,800 coronavirus cases and 25 deaths among its 5m people, while Australia has recorded 26,882 cases and 884 deaths among 25m.





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Tough calls ahead for Kangaroos after disappointing season


North Melbourne began exit interviews with their players before Thursday night’s match and have 36 hours to depart the hub on the Gold Coast.

Some players and families will remain in Queensland while others will return to Melbourne. Like most clubs there will be a group of players who will remain in limbo with clubs unwilling to contract too many players while list sizes remain uncertain.

The Kangaroos huddle during the 2020 AFL Round 18 match.Credit:Michael Willson

Shaw said there were many reasons for the club’s poor year but he was optimistic the club could rebound quickly.

“You can get on a roll throughout that period too but you can also get on a roll the other way and it cannot go your way,” Shaw said.

“I was really bullish about the club and where we are going. It’s been a disappointing year.

“You can go through these periods and come out pretty quickly. I think we have got the ability to do that but what that looks like I am not sure.”

North Melbourne finished the season with eight consecutive losses and have half their list out of contract but Shaw described their young talent as amazing.

Jy Simpkin, Tarryn Thomas, Jed Anderson and Bailey Scott are promising and the Kangaroos have two first round picks at this stage in December’s national draft. They have also been without star midfielder Ben Cunnington for most of the season while Jack Ziebell had an injury-interrupted year.

They will avoid the wooden spoon and finish second bottom on the ladder if Richmond beat the Crows on Saturday.



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Mowen calls Hooper to retain Wallabies captaincy


Former Wallabies skipper Ben Mowen is adamant Michael Hooper should retain the national captaincy for the upcoming Bledisloe Cup and Rugby Championship series.

New Wallabies coach Dave Rennie declared the captaincy was up for grabs after naming a 44-man preliminary squad last Sunday.

Despite being the incumbent Wallabies captain, Hooper did not lead the Waratahs this season, with veteran Rob Simmons being given the role.

“Clearly he’s not doing it (captaincy) at the Waratahs and it’s been good for his game,” Rennie said.

“To be honest I think he’s played really well. He’s still leading, he just hasn’t got the ‘c’ next to his name.”

“We’ll work out what the team is first and then we’ll select a captain. There’s lots of good leaders within that group.”

They include Simmons, Rebels fullback Dane Haylett-Petty and his Melbourne teammate Matt Toomua.

However, Mowen was in no doubt that Hooper was the man for the job.

“If it was me, I’d be backing Michael Hooper the whole way,” said Mowen, who was made captain of the Wallabies less than five months after making his debut in 2013.

“He’s been outstanding for a long time in terms his performance. His leadership just grows year on year, and he’s managed things through pretty tough periods.”

Working against Hooper is his poor Wallabies’ captaincy record.

He has led Australia to just 19 wins from 46 Tests in charge. The winning strike rate of 44.56 per cent is the lowest of any Wallabies skipper since David Codey, who lost his only match in charge in 1997.

“He will have grown a lot out of that and I’m sure working with a new management team, he’ll be re-enthused by new experiences there,” Mowen said.

“That experience that he’s got under his belt, one of the youngest guys ever to play 100 Tests, certainly in Australia, we need that type of leadership this year.”

Regardless of who captains Australia, Mowen predicted a bold showing from the Wallabies, saying having a separate Super Rugby AU competition this year was an advantage.

“Kiwi sides haven’t been having a look at the way the guys have been playing up close and personal,” he said.

“It’s different watching it on tape than it is to getting comfortable by playing against opposition.

“There’s a hell of a lot of advantages that have come out of Super Rugby Australia playing just internally.

“There are so many unknowns and that’s a cool thing. Upsets can happen when there are lots of unknowns.”



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Bledisloe Cup: Mowen calls Hooper to retain Wallabies captaincy


Former Wallabies skipper Ben Mowen is adamant Michael Hooper should retain the national captaincy for the upcoming Bledisloe Cup and Rugby Championship series.

New Wallabies coach Dave Rennie declared the captaincy was up for grabs after naming a 44-man preliminary squad last Sunday.

Despite being the incumbent Wallabies captain, Hooper did not lead the Waratahs this season, with veteran Rob Simmons being given the role.

Watch the 2020 Super Rugby AU Final Live & On-Demand on Kayo. New to Kayo? Get your 14-day free trial & start streaming instantly

Rennie cautious of cross-code

Rennie cautious of cross-code

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Federal Government calls on states to boost coronavirus quarantine capacity by 50 per cent


The Federal Government is pushing states and territories to boost their combined hotel quarantine capacity by 50 per cent, to allow more Australians stuck overseas to return home.

Transport Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack has written to state and territory leaders requesting that the cap on international arrivals, which currently sits at about 4,000 people per week, be raised to 6,000 per week.

He wants to see NSW, Queensland and Western Australia each take an additional 500 incoming passengers per week, while South Australia has been asked to increase its capacity by 360 quarantine beds per week.

Mr McCormack said he had also written to the leaders of Tasmania, the ACT and the NT, to gauge their ability to take on more international arrivals.

“Those letters are telling them that’s what they in fact need to do, and I’ve had discussions with them,” he said.

“They know, they understand, this needs to happen.

Mr McCormack said he hoped to see the proposal agreed to and implemented by the end of the month, suggesting Queensland in particular should explore whether it could further boost its quarantine capability by using hotels on the Gold Coast and in Cairns.

Yesterday, WA Premier Mark McGowan said he would be willing to boost his state’s quarantine capacity if federal government-owned facilities were made available.

It is estimated that 27,000 Australians overseas have registered their desire to come home with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

The level of passenger intake currently agreed by the states evens out to about 4,000 entries into hotel quarantine each week, but data from the Australian Border Force shows the number of people entering Australia has slightly exceeded that in recent weeks, excluding flight crews and people with transit visas.

Date Arrivals
August 10 – 16 3,809
August 17 – 23 4,036
August 24 – 30 4,198
August 31 – September 6 4,624
September 7 – September 13 4,168
Total 20,835
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Anthony Albanese says the RAAF should be used to repatriate Australians

Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese said the Government needed to examine federal quarantine measures, and repeated suggestions for the Government to use RAAF planes to bring home Australians.

“There are a whole range of Commonwealth facilities in addition to hotel space that Queensland, Western Australia and the Northern Territory have all said they’re prepared to do more with some support from the Commonwealth,” he said.

But Mr McCormack rejected suggestions from Mr Albanese that the Government take a more proactive approach in opening quarantine facilities.

“We feel as though the best way the states can manage the quarantine is with the hotel situation,” he said.



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The big list calls Hawthorn will have to weigh up according to Luke Hodge


Hawthorn great Luke Hodge says he believes his former club would be looking at the future of almost every player on their list as they embark on a full-scale rebuild in the coming years.

After starting the year with a few big wins over Brisbane and Richmond, the Hawks have fallen away and remain a chance to finish 2020 with the wooden spoon.

Attention is naturally turning to the future of several of their players, with current captain Ben Stratton and forward Paul Puopolo announcing on Monday that this weekend’s game against Gold Coast will be their last.

Despite Hawthorn football boss Graham Wright saying the club will not be trading out players for draft picks, Hodge believes the likes of Tom Mitchell, Jaeger O’Meara and Chad Wingard would all be asked whether they’d like to move clubs ahead of next season.

“I think everyone would be on the table,” Hodge said on SEN’s Whateley.

“Not your James Sicily’s or your younger players but anyone who could go somewhere else and play in a premiership and have success .. (Isaac) Smith, (Luke) Breust and (Jack) Gunston have all been lucky and in the right position to play in premierships.

“You’re probably looking at a Tom Mitchell, Jaeger O’Meara and Chad Wingard who have come to Hawthorn thinking they are ready to have a crack and go for a premiership.

“The goal posts have changed at the moment so I would be asking all of them (whether they wanted to move). When Alastair Clarkson does this, it’s never an uncomfortable conversation. It wouldn’t be ‘you’re on the trade table or you’re staying’, it would be ‘what do you think would be best for you and the football club’.

“It’s a mature conversation and they always come out with the same answer.”

Hodge added that while he’s been pleased to see the club turn to youth in recent weeks, if players aged 26 and above were still in the team, it would continue to sideline the club’s next generation of players.

“They’re starting to play a lot of younger guys that they’ve brought into the side over the last few weeks,” he said.

“If they’ve been given a list of 36 for next year then that would make the decision pretty easy (to keep players on) but they’re thinking that the list sizes are still going to be reasonably high and they’ll have to cut it down over the next few years.

“I know they said that they weren’t trading (Jack) Gunston, (Luke) Breust and (Isaac Smith) but there’s a lot of other guys in that mix like Tom Mitchell who is 27, Chad Wingard is 27 and Jaeger O’Meara who is 26, are the going to hold onto all of them or even (have a chat about their future to them)?

“James Frawley is 32, Ricky Henderson is 31 and Ben McEvoy isn’t going anywhere at 31, there’s a lot those guys there who if they continue to stay in the team, they’re going to be taking the spot of all the young guys coming through.

“Every time you’ve got a Gunston and a Breust in the side, they’re playing in their main spots. Smith is on a wing, Tom Mitchell is in the middle, O’Meara is in the middle and Wingard is either up forward or in the middle.

“These guys that are 26 and upwards to 32 are going to be taking the majority of your list again – it’s a question of where Hawthorn are at. Are they going to commit to a rebuild and ask those boys if they want to go somewhere else or are they going to stick with those guys and try and build around them.

“It’s a big call and a big couple of weeks for them.”






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