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#8 'Family Entertainment' at Canada's Arms Bazaar

Canada has cultivated an image of being the worldąs peacekeeper. However, it is also one of the largest international suppliers of arms and weapons in the world. Canada is the seventh largest exporter of arms and weapons to developing countries and the tenth largest overall arms exporter in the world.

And the premiere venue for viewing the military industry's products in this country is Airshow Canada, a biennial event which runs in conjunction with the Abbotsford International Airshow, an annual event widely advertised as family entertainment. So while families marvel at these technologies, Canada is hosting an international arms bazaar where representatives from over 70 countries come to buy and sell arms. Since its inception in 1961, the airshow had proved a popular family event. It is now the third largest airshow in North America and the largest in Canada, drawing an estimated 300,000 people in 1995.

Airshow Canada has also grown since its first joint venture in Abbotsford, from 37 military participants in 1989 to 104 military participants in 1995 with 15,000 delegates attending. Representatives from Canada's top military corporations ­ Bristol Aerospace, Bombardier, Canadian Marconi ­ display their products alongside representatives from international military corporations like British Aerospace, McDonnell Douglas, Aerospatiale, Mitsubishi and Boeing.

Delegates from around the world ­ including Russia, the United States, and Britain ­ come to buy, sell and trade arms and weapons. Representatives from China, Brazil, Indonesia and Chile ­ countries with histories of abusing human rights ­ are welcomed by the Canadian government to both the Airshow and the trade show. Ray Matty, president of Abbotsford Airshow, states the airshow's policy in deciding who to invite is linked to the federal government's foreign policy.

The Abbotsford International Airshow has always had a well advertised military presence, but the military presence at Airshow Canada goes virtually unnoticed and unreported ­ as does Canada's role in the international military defense business. Steve Staples, co-ordinator of End the Arms Race, states that, notwithstanding Canda's self-image as a promoter of international piece, Canada earns more exporting arms than it spends on peacekeeping.

€ Family Entertainment or Mecca of Militarism, Briarpatch, September 1995 (Ron Dart)
€ Airshow Śturning into arms bazaar,ą Vancouver Sun, Aug. 10, 1995 (Kim Bolan)
€ Airshow Canada, Ploughshares Monitor, June 1995 (Ken Epps)

PCC Researchers: Susan Wilson Murray and Angela Austman

Summary of Coverage
Four articles that reported the corporate trade show (Aerospace Industries Exhibition) connected to the Abbotsford Airshow appeared in 1995 (in The Vancouver Sun and The Financial Post) but other than the nominated story only two stories critiquing the military and arms sales appeared. These were in The Ploughshares Monitor and Peace Magazine. We found no coverage by either CBC-Radio or CBC-TV.

Author's Comments:
Political scientist Ron Dart attributes a combination of public relations work and uncritical journalists as the main reason why this story didnąt get more play when it first appeared. "The public relations work of the Air/Trade Show, predictably, projects a media image of benign family entertainment and aerospace technology. Journalists often soak up the message handed to them by the 'image' cabal of the Air/Trade Show.

"The struggle, even in the local media, to get a substantive counter-story involves a sustained effort. Many letters to the editor justify and support the Air/Trade Show and quickly critique the Arts & Peace Festival."

While there is a significant amount of coverage around the Arts and Peace Festival, "it is more event-centered and episodic than it is serious and sustained analysis," notes Dart. "The media, in short, have not really dealt with the events (Air/Trade Show and Arts & Peace Festival) in a substantive way ... In short, the media has scarcely scratched the surface of this story."

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