Canadarm to become Usarm After Controversial Sale?

Posted Jan 18, 2008 by Lenny Stoute
B.C.-based MDA, makers of the iconic Canadarm, wants to sell out to US based MDA, makers of fine weaponry. Ex-MDA engineer Paul Cottle says the whole deal's unethical and wants Ottawa to shut it down.
Your Canadarm tax dollars at work for you. Canada
Your Canadarm tax dollars at work for you. Canada
Canada Space Agency
What with the new cynicism being all the rage, Quixotic figures are n short supply.. Meet Paul Cottle,as Quixotic as they come, who's quit his job on account he believes the impending sale of the company he works for is unethical. Can't say I can recall when last I heard of someone who quit a gig on ethical grounds so a closer look was called for.
Here's what's under the spotlight, Richmond B.C. based MDA, Canada's foremost satellite developer, the folk who brought us the internationally famed Canadarm and the hyper-techno savvy RADARSAT 1 and 2 satellites, is about to be swallowed up by US communications and weaponry company,ATK of Minnesota.
Cottle is calling on the Canadian Government to block the sale, on the grounds the American buyer makes weaponry that kills people.
Cottle, 31, resigned last week from his job of three years after the Richmond-based company announced it was selling its satellite and space division to Alliant Techsystems of Minnesota (ATK) for $1.325 billion, he told CBC News. There are whispers he may not be alone; other engineers at the company are considering quitting,
Cottle said he and hundreds of co-workers were faced with a critical choice when the company's CEO announced the sale during a meeting last Tuesday.
"As soon as I heard the announcement, I knew I couldn't work for them anymore," he told CBC News. "I didn't even have to hear the end of the speech. I already knew about ATK.
"ATK is a company that produces weaponry that kills people indiscriminately — soldiers and civilians alike," Cottle said.
"Part of the reason I came to Canada was to avoid having my tax dollars go to support companies like ATK," the American said.
ATK derives more than half of its $4 billion US in annual revenue from military contracts, including cluster bombs, depleted uranium rounds and landmines.
Cottle may be standing on firmer legal ground than his own code of ethics.
In December 1997, a total of 122 governments, among them Canada and the US, signed the Mine Ban Treaty in Ottawa , an internationally respected instrument for ridding the world of anti-personnel mines.
Lloyd Axworthy, the foreign minister when Canada signed the Ottawa protocol, said he believes the sale contravenes the provisions of that treaty.
"It [ATK] is a major arms merchant that is creating some of the dirtiest weapons in the world," Axworthy said.
"The transfer of public money into a company making landmines is clearly banned under the treaty so this would be a clear case of non-compliance," he said.
In a written statement, MDA said "its practice is to act in full compliance with any Canadian laws and the laws of any country we do business with," adding that the sale of its space division is in the best interest of its employees.
ATK put out an e-mail Wednesday saying its mines provided to NATO and its allies comply with the treaty, in that they are used only in combat and have a self-deactivation feature.
It's to be hoped that Cottle's focus on ATK's weaponry division will raise the question that's bubbling under. Namely, the ease with which MDA technology, intended for peaceful uses, can be converted by ATK into weapons guidance/ delivery systems. Given ATK's buddies at the Pentagon's ongoing weapons in space scenario, I'm betting it won't be a tough go.