Like most Canadian military procurement programmes, Canada’s JUSTAS project to acquire drones is now far behind schedule, faltering badly, and being conducted mostly in secret to avoid public oversight.
The majority of Canadians have little awareness of the drone programme and are misinformed about drones in general, unsurprising since our government appears to be running the programme ‘under the radar’, to avoid criticism.
Originally a programme to acquire surveillance drones, the plan now seems to be to purchase armed ‘attack’ drones. NOW reports that RCAF spokepeople say that the military is on track to acquire armed drones, though no timetable was presented.
American, British, and Israeli forces operate armed drones in various theatres and have killed hundreds, perhaps thousands, of civilians. Because of the demonstrated ‘precision’ of drone weapons, governments cannot claim these civilian deaths are ‘accidental’. Each and every death appears to be the calculated result of a decision by a drone operating team that knows civilians will be harmed. Furthermore, most of the people targetted by drone teams are not active combattants, but individuals selected by secret criteria and assassinated without recourse to any system of justice. Military officials responsible for drone assassinations have consistently denied or minimised civilian deaths, presumably to avoid responsibility. It isn’t clear that the Canadian military has a plan to deal with the ethical implications of operating armed drones.
No decision appears to have been made about what drone systems to acquire, though Israeli and American arms companies have been lobbying Canadian decision makers behind closed doors for some time. David Pugliese, in the Ottawa Citizen, asked a number of key questions back in January 2013, but these do not appear to have been answered.