Should the Canadian government allow our military to consider buying more Israeli drones?

The Canadian military started leasing Israeli attack drones in 2017 for use in Afghanistan. It is now considering buying more. By all accounts, the Israeli drones are VERY effective. They should be, they have been “field tested” – including on Palestinian civilians. They can spy in real time, intercept telecommunications, launch unexpected missile strikes… and at all times are very useful to terrorize a population. Sounds great… Read more…

“Ottawa is on the lookout for unmanned aircraft that can conduct long-range surveillance and precision air strikes. The program is expected to cost from $1 billion to $5 billion“, reports Vice magazine.

According to reporter Justin Ling, Israel Aerospace Industries is pitching a modified version of its Heron drone, which has become a favourite of the Israeli Defence Forces, and which Canada has already leased from Israel for use in Afghanistan.

“In a briefing for industry players, a representative from the procurement arm of the Canadian government laid out Canada’s desire for its long-range, medium-altitude drone”, continued Ling.

What’s wrong with using drones?

There are many very legitimate military uses for unarmed drones, that are uncontroversial (surveillance for military and sovereignty purposes being chief among them),” notes Peggy Mason, President of the Rideau Institute and OFIP Advisory Council member. 

In fact in, “Smart Defence” a research paper jointly produced by the Rideau Institute and the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, Professor Michael Byers argues that drones are a better way for Canada to exercise its sovereignty in the far north, than the very expensive F35 fighter jet.

But Israeli drones?

Advocates of a general boycott of Israeli products (BDS) will no doubt be hostile, in principle, to acquiring any military equipment from Israel. For example, Canadian human rights organization CJPME has called for a general arms embargo on Israel, but the Canadian Parliament and government have already stated their strong opposition to the movement to boycott Israel (called the BDS movement), so this is not likely to restrain Canadian military planners.

“Of the many egregious aspects to partnering with Israel, one of the most important would be partnering with a country that is committing war crimes in their ongoing use of drones as an element of COLLECTIVE PUNISHMENT which is contrary to the Geneva Conventions,” continues Mason. “So we would be partnering in the production of drones that our partner is using for manifestly illegal purposes“.

A lethal buzzzzzzzzing over Gaza

Meanwhile, in Gaza, Israeli drones continue to shoot, maim and terrorize a helpless population 24/7.

If you want to get an insight into what its like to live under the continual threat of Israeli drones, watch “Drones over Gaza” a 3 minute video prepared by We Are Not Numbers (WANN) a collective of Palestinian young people living in Gaza.

The constant menacing “buzz” of Israeli drones over Gaza keeps the whole population on edge, day and night. Nobody knows when they might kill or maim someone.

Could it be avoided?

The Canadian military will no doubt want to select equipment which it feels best meets its operational needs. Ethical and moral considerations will not likely figure importantly.

However, if important, ethically motivated Canadian civil society organizations, including churches, Amnesty International Canada, the Rideau Institute, the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives and human rights associations raise this as a political issue, enough pressure might be mounted that the Liberal government might take the “Israeli option” off the DND shopping list.


Canada Talks Israel Palestine (CTIP) is the weekly newsletter of Peter Larson, Chair of the Ottawa Forum on Israel/Palestine (OFIP). It aims to promote a serious discussion in Canada about the complicated and emotional Israel/Palestine issue with a focus on the truth, clear analysis and human rights for all. Readers with different points of view are invited to make comment.

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  1. As the Canadian government, along with so many other liberal democracies, consider the BDS movement to be inherently antisemitic, it will be hard for “ethically motivated Canadian civil society organizations, including churches, Amnesty International Canada, the Rideau Institute, the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives and human rights associations” to explain why promoting an antisemitic movement is a positive for human rights.

    1. It is impossible to discuss this with someone who cannot (or does not want to see the difference between disagreement with Israeli policies and anti-semitism. Even the fact that many supporters of BDS are Jews will not bring understanding to those who have closed their eyes and ears to this distinction.

  2. Canada buying arms from Israel does that not place Canada in contravention of the Forth Geneva Convention? I am disgusted from this action that the Candian government is doing.

  3. The only reason that BDS is labeled Anti-Semitic by other Liberal Democracies is that the state of Israel demands it. Was it considered racist or bigoted when the same concept was put in place to resist South Africa’s implementation of Apartheid? BDS is a threat to the occupation of indigenous Palestinian territories and the economy of that occupation. Without that economy, the Occupation can not succeed. The Israel lobby has not succeeded to push the legislation past the US Federal Government because the US Supreme court has deemed that BDS is a Constitutionally protected form of protest. So anti-BDS legislation is doing the run around by using state rights to pass legislation against BDS by individual States.
    May be someday a Constitutional suit could be brought forth to the Canadian Supreme Court and see how they could rule if BDS is a legitimate protest organization and end up doing a run around the Israel lobby. It could possibly change the Canadian relationship with the State of Israel.


  5. Buying armaments from Israel supports its arms industry. Even those who are reluctant to support a general boycott of Israel can refuse to support an arms industry; that is already out of proportion to the country’s economy and extremely dependent on foreign support.

  6. I clearly remember the day when those two kids were killed by Israeli drones. It was a playground area which is supposed to be a safe place. The drones could see the kids were taking selfies and they decided it was gonna be their last picture together. If such horrendous acts of murder can’t move people to protest the Canadian government to boycott Israeli weapons and call for an arms embargo on Israel, I don’t know what can catapult them. A friend of mine whose brother was on the roof of their house was killed in the same way. He was shattered to pieces and his flesh splattered everywhere. Dozens of real stories where civilians and children have gotten targeted with Israeli war machines.

  7. In earlier periods of the decades long Israel Arab Palestine Canada neither sold nor bought weapons from Israel because it was considered in an off limits zone of conflict. Military sales have gradually developed both ways. See no way of stopping them now. But Canada should make clear that any weapons it buys and sells from Israel should not be used in aggressive actions against civilians and civil targets whether against Palestinians in occupied territories or in the surrounding countries being bombed by Israel. A followup investigative qnd enforcement mechanism should be considered as has been proposed in arms sales to other countries..

    Weapons bans or limitations like government economic sanctions or Ngo efforts such as bds are not anti semitic or Jewish in same way they are anti Arab, anti Iranian, anti Chinese anti Venezuelan Mexican Latin people or anti white Slav during the South Africa Bqlkans period. They are directed for good or bad against states and their policies that are considered unacceptable to elicit change; in BDS case to end Israeli policies of occupation, annexation oppression and discrimination qgainst Palestinians. They may be misguided or ineffective and certainly should take into account civilian damage ( post war Iraq sanctions cost about a million lives) but they can hardly be considered to be directed at whole races, ethnic or religious groups. The argument that BDS is antisemitic falls into this false category.

  8. Sadly, Canada’s continued support of Saudi Arabian military ventures into other nations, often referred to as “delivering democracy” when conducted by Americans, suggests buying Israeli drones perfected through useage against Palestinians citizens in Gaza and the West Bank is little more than one military arms producer supporting yet another.
    So the idea that these drones could well be used to fence in Canada’s indigenous peoples who increasingly find themselves on the wrong side of industry/government efforts to take unceded indigenous lands without compensation for all sorts of development that bring no benefit to the real owners.
    Seems to me the claims of antisemitism over the BDS movement is much like the hue and cry we hear from the fossil fuel industry in Canada when those “real owners” demand justice, even as their treaties are being trod on like an unwelcome mat.

  9. The Heron is an *unarmed* drone, it’s a little misleading to suggest that “they might kill or maim someone” because they don’t carry anything lethal on board
    Israel is not operating these drones above Gaza with the intention to “launch unexpected missile strikes… to terrorize a population”

    Israel is using these drones to get an early warning for Hamas rocket launches towards Israeli citizens and to identify the launchers

    1. Hey Ahik,
      Thanks for this. I am happy to be corrected where I am error. Are you saying that Israel does not use “armed” drones over Gaza, or just that the version Canada is considering are not the “armed ones?

      About Israel’s “intentions’ in using drones over Gaza. Of course I don’t know. But I can speak to the terrifying effect of them. I have been twice to Gaza in recent years. The sound of the drones (which I mostly heard at night) was unnerving to me… but I had not seen/heard any of the attacks that did take place… and I knew I was getting out soon.

      1. I’m saying that the IAI Heron is family of unarmed drones, I’m also reminding that the only reason why Israel violates the Gazan airspace and operates drones over Gaza is to thwart rocket launches toward Israel

      2. Hey Ahik, that is certainly what Israel claims. But those on the ground see (and feel) it very differently. Here is a recent interview Miko Peled did with a Palestinian woman in Gaza about those Hamas “military bases” which Israel says it is attacking.
        In the end, I guess you have to decide who you believe. I find her more credible than official Israeli spokespersons.

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