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Of course these ‘experts’ are pro-military—follow the money

CGAI and the UofC’s CMSS are two of many institutions funded by the military and arms industry to promote their ideas

Canadian PoliticsMedia

A light armoured vehicle (LAV) manufactured by General Dynamics Land Systems Canada in London, Ontario. Photo courtesy General Dynamics Land Systems.

The military and arms industry sustain many ideological institutions, which goes a long way in explaining the strength of militarist ideology.

Last week, the Globe and Mail published an article titled “Canada must do its part to defend the Arctic. That requires F-35 purchases and NORAD modernization.” The commentary was written by Robert Huebert, a long-time associate, associate professor and research fellow with the University of Calgary’s Centre for Military, Security and Strategic Studies (CMSS).

CMSS is one of a dozen university “centres of expertise” that’s received hundreds of thousands of dollars from the Department of National Defence’s Security and Defence Forum (SDF) and its subsequent iterations. Established by DND 50 years ago to “develop a domestic competence and national interest in defence issues of relevance to Canada’s security,” SDF has since funnelled several million dollars annually to academic security programs across the country.

The Liberals’ 2017 Defence Policy Review “increased investment in academic outreach to $4.5 million per year in a revamped and expanded Defence Engagement Program.” As part of this push to support academic projects, DND established the Mobilizing Insights in Defence and Security (MINDS) program in 2019. In June of this year, MINDS gave a substantial grant to CMSS and the University of Calgary.

Alongside his position at CMSS, Huebert is a fellow at the associated Canadian Global Affairs Institute (CGAI, formerly the Canadian Defence & Foreign Affairs Institute). CGAI doesn’t hide its military and arms industry funding, which includes F-35 maker Lockheed Martin. Its most recent Defence Deconstructed podcast noted, “this episode was made possible thanks to the support of the Department of National Defence’s MINDS Program. Defence Deconstructed is brought to you by Irving Shipbuilding and Boeing.” Another episode of the weekly podcast was supported “strategic sponsors Lockheed Martin and General Dynamics.”

Unsurprisingly, CGAI promotes a militarist worldview. In December, the institute released the “Economic Benefits of Defence Spending” and previously published “Canada and Saudi Arabia: A Deeply Flawed but Necessary Partnership,” which defended General Dynamics’s $14-billion deal to sell light armoured vehicles to the kingdom. At least four of the General Dynamics-funded institute’s fellows wrote columns justifying the sale, including an opinion piece by CGAI analyst David Perry, published in the Globe and Mail’s Report on Business as, “Without foreign sales, Canada’s defence industry would not survive.”

CGAI and CMSS sponsor the Journal of Military and Strategic Studies and have operated an annual military journalism course. A dozen Canadian journalism students receive scholarships to the 10-day program, which includes a media-military theory component and visits to armed forces units. The stated objective of the course is “to enhance the military education of future Canadian journalists who will report on Canadian military activities.” Captain David Williams described the student visits to military bases as a way to “foster a familiarity and mutual understanding between the CF and the future media, two entities which require a symbiotic relationship in order to function.”

Along with the Conference of Defence Associations, CGAI has given out the Ross Munro Media Award recognizing a “journalist who has made a significant contribution to understanding defence and security issues.” The $2,500 prize is awarded at a gala dinner attended by Ottawa VIPs as part of an effort to reinforce militarist culture among reporters who cover the subject.

Journalist training, the Ross Munro Award, institute reports and op-eds by military figures greatly influence and shape the discussion of military matters in Canadian media. However, organizations like the CGAI have also employed more direct methods. In detailing a personal attack against colleague and fellow journalist Lee Berthiaume, Ottawa Citizen military reporter David Pugliese pointed out that it’s “not uncommon for the site [CDFAI’s 3Ds Blog] to launch personal attacks on journalists covering defence issues. It seems some CDFAI ‘fellows’ don’t like journalists who ask the government or the Department of National Defence too many probing questions… Last year I had one of the CDFAI ‘fellows’ write one of the editors at the Citizen to complain about my lack of professionalism on a particular issue… the smear attempt was all done behind my back but I found out about it. That little stunt backfired big time when I showed the Citizen editor that the CDFAI ‘fellow’ had fabricated his claims about me.”

While it may not have succeeded in this instance, online criticism and complaints to journalists’ superiors can drive reporters to avoid topics or be more cautious when covering an issue.

CGAI has held joint symposiums with DND, NATO and NORAD. It’s also received financial support from a bevy of arms contractors such as General Dynamics, BAE Systems, Boeing, the Missile Defense Agency, Raytheon and Lockheed Martin.

“Initial funding” for CGAI, notes Howard D. Fremeth in a PhD thesis on “Canada’s military-cultural memory network,” “came mostly from a single patron, Robert J. S. Gibson.” Honorary colonel of the 10th Battalion Calgary Highlanders, the wealthy Calgary businessman “had a deep personal connection to the military.” After securing funding for CMSS at the University of Calgary, Gibson supported the creation of a think tank that wouldn’t have to deal with “the impediments resident in academia.” Gibson was chair of the CGAI Board.

CGAI and the University of Calgary’s CMSS are two of many institutions funded by the military and arms industry to promote their ideas.

At a minimum, media outlets serious about journalistic principles should point out their contributors’ direct or indirect financial ties to the military when offering their opinion on the armed forces.

Yves Engler has been dubbed “one of the most important voices on the Canadian Left today” (Briarpatch), “in the mould of I.F. Stone” (Globe and Mail), and “part of that rare but growing group of social critics unafraid to confront Canada’s self-satisfied myths” (Quill & Quire). He has published nine books.


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