Wings Magazine

Features Operations
McCarthy: The DND model is the right approach

In May 2007, the Department of National Defence (DND) concluded an arrangement with the U.S. State Department over access to ITAR (International Traffic in Arms Regulations) items by Canadian citizens who hold dual nationalities.


January 30, 2008
By Stacy Bradshaw


Topics

In May 2007, the Department of National Defence (DND) concluded an arrangement with the U.S. State Department over access to ITAR (International Traffic in Arms Regulations) items by Canadian citizens who hold dual nationalities.

As a result of the arrangement, the DND agreed to restrict access to ITAR-controlled items to its employees who are issued a minimum SECRET-level security clearance by the Canadian government.

The DND must ensure that SECRET-level security clearances are not granted to personnel with ties to known terrorist groups or to those who maintain significant ties to foreign countries, including those countries to which exports and sales of ITAR-controlled defence articles and services are prohibited. In exchange, the State Department promised to revise its export authorizations to permit Canadian citizen/dual-national DND employees access as needed to ITAR defence articles and services, if they possess this SECRET-level security clearance.

The agreement applies only to the DND and has not been extended to any other government agency or to private companies in Canada.

Advertisment

While the DND agreement can be seen as an important first step, the situation as it currently pertains to private companies continues to cause problems for Canadian manufacturers. 

A year ago, in one of the more high profile cases, 24 Canadian workers at the Bell Helicopter plant in Mirabel were denied access to ITAR-controlled data because they were also nationals of countries under embargo by the U.S.
The workers were reassigned to other projects. One person, an intern who is no longer employed by the company, made a complaint to the Quebec Human Rights Commission (QHRC). Over the past year, four private-sector workers in Quebec have brought complaints to the QHRC on ITAR issues, arguing discrimination on the basis of nationality.

The issue threatens to create a critical confrontation. The rules violate the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and a number of provincial charters. The QHRC rulings will soon be released and the federal government will be placed in a difficult position if it is unable to convince the Americans to make amendments.

There are reports that Public Works Minister Michael Fortier has been asked to take a leading role in the negotiations and is currently planning trips to Washington, working with Canadian Ambassador Michael Wilson to apprise U.S. officials of the effects of ITAR in Canada.

Should a resolution not be forthcoming, Canadian companies will be forced to either avoid signing U.S. defence contracts or become parties to contracts that are in violation of Canadian law. At a time when there is growing pressure from international competition and a high Canadian dollar, Canada’s aerospace industry can little afford such a dilemma. The federal government needs to ensure that the industry is freed of ITAR impediments as quickly as possible.