Cluster bombs: an expensive mess

Cluster munitions are on their way out (despite the efforts of the government to water down the global treaty banning them). But Canada still has thousands of cluster bombs it purchased during the Cold War. DND recently began the expensive and dangerous process of dismantling the munitions (Kathryn Blaze Carlson, “What DND didn’t blow up will cost $2M to junk,” National Post, 20 July 2012):

The national defence department spent upward of $22.7 million buying cluster bombs that Ottawa now says it wants to ban and destroy at a cost of another $2-million — a job that will inevitably be outsourced because no Canadian company is capable of disposing of the controversial weapons, the National Post has learned.

The Canadian Forces never used any of the 12,600 projectiles it purchased for between $1,500 and $1,800 each in 1988. Today, the stockpile is sitting at the Canadian Forces Ammunition Depot in Dundurn, Sask., while Ottawa waits for a firm to step up to the job of destroying the projectiles and the more than one million bomblets they contain.

“That’s money that’s gone that we’re never going to see again,” said Derek Fildebrandt, national research director at the Canadian Taxpayers Federation. “It’s a positive thing, though, that we never had to use them.”

The projectile in question is particularly controversial.

111 countries have so far banned it under the 2008 Convention on Cluster Munitions because each canister scatters dozens of bomblets over an area the size of a football field and can act like landmines when they fail to detonate on impact.

Canada signed onto the convention in 2008, but has yet to ratify the treaty with domestic legislation.

The Conservatives tabled a Senate bill in April, but critics say it fails to ensure Canadian troops are not complicit in using the weapons when working with allies such as the U.S., which has not agreed to the ban.

“The government is doing good things by destroying the stockpile, but there’s a lesson to learn in this: Mistakes were made in procuring a weapon we never ended up using,” said Paul Hannon, head of Mines Action Canada. “We spent money procuring the munitions, and now we’re spending money destroying them. That doesn’t seem like a useful way to spend taxpayer dollars.” (emphasis added)

Photo credit: DND

 

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