Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Why Did Harper Hire Company Guilty of Corruption and War Crimes?

Peter MacKay has recently suggested that Canada could still be involved in Afghanistan for some time, as the Provincial Reconstruction Teams attempt to create a new infrastructure for the country we blew to bits.

Most are good initiatives, though the way they are being handled sounds more like a money pit.

But since Canadian civilians in Afghanistan will have to rely on private security to carry out those projects, who will be getting the contracts?

Uncertainty over the Canadian PRT's future does not mean that elaborate, tax-funded "signature" projects such as the reconstruction of 50 Kandahar schools, the vaccination of all children in the province for polio, and the $50-million Arghandab Irrigation Rehabilitation Project will wither and die, Hoffmann said.

He said the projects should move forward to completion, regardless of how far behind they might be in terms of scheduling and progress. A lot of work remains to be done, he said. "We have to accelerate (the pace on) some of them."

Officials from the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) have told Canwest News Service that work on the Arghandab irrigation project — Canada's biggest foreign aid project in a generation — is only just getting started and will continue well into 2012, long after Canadian troops have left the province.

Canadian civilian workers from Montreal-based engineering firm SNC-Lavalin and irrigation consultant Hydrosult Inc. will soon start arriving to begin their work on the project, Canwest was told.

They will be housed inside private compounds in Kandahar city while the work proceeds. They will not be protected by Canadian soldiers. Private firms will be contracted to provide them security instead.

Security contracts will go to private companies "that are legally registered in this country, that have the right to provide the services they are providing," said the ambassador, who spoke to reporters from the Canadian embassy in Kabul.

Hoffmann emphasized that regardless of the pullout in 2011, Canada will continue to play a role in Afghanistan. He made specific mention of its strong diplomatic presence.

Security contracts will go to private companies "that are legally registered in this country ... What does that mean? It doesn't guarantee they will go to Canadian companies, only those legally registered to operate here.

I have always supported our soldiers, but not the war. It would appear however, that just like the Bush Administration, the Conservative government is poised to make some of their cronies very rich.

Which brings me to the largest recipient of the contract to build the dam and irrigation system known as the Arghandab Irrigation Rehabilitation Project: SNC-Lavelin. This company was involved in one of the largest corruption trials in India, and has been complicit in war crimes in Iraq. Harper sure can pick 'em.

SNC Lavalin scandal

The CBI stated that Vijayan along with other accused had 'fraudulently with dishonest intention' of showing undue favour to SNC Lavalin entered into only a 'non binding' memorandum of understanding on April 25, 1998 for MCC instead of a legally valid MOA which facilitated Lavlin to back out from the commitment later, thereby 'cheating the government. ....

The investigations revealed that supply contract for renovation and modernisation of the Panniyar, Shengulam and Pallivasal hydel projects was given to SNC Lavalin at an exorbitant rate and the per MW cost for the same was the highest. This caused a loss to the Kerala government with corresponding wrongful gain to Lavalin.

Bullets over bay Street

TORONTO, MARCH 21, 2005 -- All the 10 or so members of Homes not Bombs wanted to do today was have a dialogue on ending SNC-Lavalin's participation in the war crimes being committed in Iraq and Afghanistan. SNC-Lavalin profits handily from its Quebec-based SNC-TEC subsidiary, which is providing hundreds of millions of bullets to U.S. occupation forces across the globe.

But SNC-Lavalin management would have none of it, preferring to treat Homes not Bombs as a security threat. In their largest display of force yet, some three dozen Metro Police, eight wearing riot visors and riding horses -- backed up with two police wagons ready to cart folks away -- were on hand early today at the Etobicoke offices of the firm, which has been the site of two prior, peaceful protests.

All this for a group of ten people with placards and flyers calling for an end to the profits being made from war crimes. And just to make sure we got the point, police immediately accosted the small group as we walked towards the western driveway to the offices. The officer in charge told us that the company had pre-issued trespass notices against us "that would be enforced," and another officer took it upon himself to single out one demonstrator, grabbing him by the arm, without explanation, and proceeding to shove him around. The officer then threatened to attack another demonstrator for standing on the sidewalk.

"Move, how many times do I have to tell you, you're blocking the driveway!" he thundered at her. She reminded him that his police cars were in fact blocking the driveway and that she was simply standing on the sidewalk. Despite his repeated thundering at her, she stood her ground, staring him down until he backed off.

Indeed, police cars blocked both entrances, and a row of squad cars was lined up at the front entrance to the building, perhaps to prevent a repeat of the scene on Martin Luther King Day,when a group of about 50 people, including some recently returned from first-hand witnessing in Iraq,had paraded around the grounds and a smaller group of about 10 had tried to enter the building for a dialogue. That day, police had seemed unprepared, and made no arrests.

Why was there such a display of force today? Were the police simply embarrassed by their lack of preparation last time out (only to be made even more embarrassed with today's show of firepower for the small vigil)? Or has the campaign to get SNC-Lavalin to divest itself of its bulletmaker or, better yet, transform itself into something socially useful, begun to have an effect inside corporate boardrooms?

Bullet production certainly has been cause for a great deal of dialogue inside the building, according to employees who ventured out for lunch and discussed the issue with the demonstrators. And if SNC-Lavalin was trying to deflect attention away from itself because of its unsavoury practices, this was certainly not the way to do it. The huge police presence also meant many passersby slowed down to see what was going on and, having found out, honked enthusiastically their support for our vigil.

While some employees refused to look at us, others nodded in silent support, and a few were vocal in their words of encouragement. Some said they were unaware there was to be a protest, so there was concern when police on horseback started circling the building this morning. Once that occurred, the company did much of the work for us, by explaining once again in an internal email that SNC's profiting from bullets was the cause of our demo.

Some employees stood out on the front porch for a short time while we called out to them to have a dialogue on divestment, but apparently a senior manager ordered them back inside. It is that kind of treatment--not even allowing employees the right on their break to speak with us--that has contributed to a
certain amount of discomfort within the company.

Indeed, one employee told us of a personal decision to give notice in a few weeks time, declaring that the bullet contract was one more reason to leave the company, in addition to concerns about what the individual described as shoddy environmental practices by the firm in its engineering and mining projects and poor treatment of employees.

As we left the armed encampment that was SNC-Lavalin this afternoon, we vowed to return, to once again expose the lie that Canada is not involved in the crimes taking place in Iraq, and to challenge a complacent population which seems to have bought that lie in much the same way as many have swallowed the line that Paul Martin's announcement on star wars means Canada is not involved in space warfare (when in fact it is official Canadian government policy to view space as the fourth medium of warfare).

Note: SNC-Lavalin sold its previously held subsidiary SNC technologies to General Dynamics Corp, one of the largest munition manufacturers in the world. SNC Tech have a contract with the U.S. Military to manufacture 500,000,000 bullets per year, for 12 years.

General Dynamics wins military contract
Will supply a fully digital communications system to the Canadian Army
Montreal Gazette
March 9, 2009

The Canadian unit of General Dynamics Corp., the world's biggest defence contractor, said Monday it will supply a fully digital communications system to the Canadian Army, ensuring troops will continue to have access to critical communications services in combat zones. The contract, awarded by the Department of Public Works and Government Services Canada, is worth $341 million over the five initial years and can be extended for up to five more years, bringing the total tab to $682 million.

It just keeps getting better.

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