Canada Calling – Canadian Nuclear Fusion Sale to Iran Under Fire
By Faisal Kutty – Both the American government and Canadian parliamentary opposition party members have expressed alarm over the proposed sale of a $50 million Tokamak fusion reactor to Iran. The reactor was sold by the Canadian Center for Fusion Magnetics (CCFM), a publicly funded research firm based in Montreal. The Center has defended the sale, saying that the technology will be used for peaceful purposes by the Iranians.
Although the sale has not yet been finalized, the U.S. government has expressed concern that the reactor can also be used for military purposes and has asked Ottawa to “closely examine” the deal because, according to an unnamed State Department official quoted by the National Post, “there is still a possibility of dual use.”
The concern is echoed by Reform Party defense critic Art Hanger. Hanger’s party, the official parliamentary opposition in Canada, is pressuring the government to reject the Center’s application for an export permit.
The Center had reportedly advertised the reactor on its Web site, but did not receive any offers apart from the Iranian one.
The reactor itself was invented by the Russians in the 1950s, but the Canadian research center has spent an estimated $250 million of public funds in developing the technology. The sale comes as the Center is winding down its operations after the Atomic Energy Control Board decided to focus exclusively on the CANDU fission reactor. This notwithstanding the fact that fusion technology is seen by many experts in the field as the energy of the future.
The Takomak is one of only 25 in the world today. In contrast to conventional nuclear reactors, which use fission, the donut-shaped Takomak heats gases to extremely high temperatures and causes the fusing of nuclei to produce clean, cheap and inexhaustible energy. Fission creates energy by splitting atoms.
The Iranians give the impression that they are looking ahead to the day their oil wells dry up. But critics dismiss this as Western wishful thinking and argue that Tehran has more sinister motives—to use the technology to make hydrogen bombs. But the Center’s head, Dr. Real Decoste, says that this is not possible.
“This is something we have been looking at very closely,” he told the National Post. “There is nothing in this technology that’s [of] much concern about military application. Everything that can be used in that way has been removed.”
Aside from the military concern, critics also are pointing to all the tax money funneled into the Center, which is now being shut down. With the Center’s demise, Canada may be the only industrialized country in the world not working in the area of fusion technology
The foreign affairs department and the Atomic Energy Control Board are presently reviewing the Center’s export permit application.
Court Turns Down Parents of Somali Teen Tortured, Killed by Canadian Peacekeepers
An Ontario court has dismissed a $5 million lawsuit filed by parents of a Somali teen tortured and killed by Canadian peacekeepers. Soldiers sent “to ease the suffering of the Somali people” were found by a government inquiry to have committed some heinous crimes, including the killing of Shidane Arone, during their tour of duty in 1993. But the court found that the claim was filed too late and did not disclose any evidence of negligence by the government.
Reportedly, Arone sneaked into the regiment’s compound to steal food on March 16, 1993. The 16-year-old was detained, tortured for hours and eventually killed by members of the elite Airborne Regiment who served as his judge, jury and executioner.
According to testimony at a National Defense Board of Inquiry, set up to investigate a number of shameful acts perpetuated by Canadian peacekeepers, at least 16 soldiers heard his screams and shouts as his body was battered and his feet were burned. Six members of the elite 2 Commando unit of the Airborne Regiment were eventually charged with his murder under the National Defense Act and the Canadian Criminal Code. Following the widely publicized courts martial, one was convicted and sent to jail, another was declared unfit to stand trial after sustaining brain damage from attempting suicide, and the rest were acquitted.
At the time, the government also moved quickly to prevent any major fallout by agreeing to pay US $15,000 in compensation to Arone’s clan in 1993. His clan had reportedly asked for 100 camels as blood money. In exchange for the US $15,000—equivalent to 100 camels—the clan signed a waiver releasing Canadian authorities from any further liability.
However, Arone’s father, Abukar Arone Rage, and mother, Dahabo Omar Samow, have not seen a penny of the compensation, nor have they received an apology for the inhuman treatment of their son. The family’s lawyer, Rohan Bansie, retained on their behalf by a Somali community activist, said that neither parent was a party to the waiver. He suggests that the waiver may have been executed by village elders who would have benefited from the payoff.
The statement of claim filed in Ottawa last month alleged that the government was liable for the “humiliating, degrading and dehumanizing circumstances” surrounding the teen’s death. Government lawyers opposed the claim, arguing that the action was “irrelevant, frivolous and vexatious and an abuse of process.” Interestingly, the defense also responded that the claim did not set out any pain and suffering.
It is shameful that the government would rely on legal technicalities to deny justice to Arone’s family. The government spent more than $11 million on the aborted inquiry set up to investigate the Somalia fiasco but now can’t apologize or come up with a decent compensation proposal for the family who have been kept in the dark for more than six years.
According to Bansie the issue is not one of money. His clients want “someone to admit they killed their son under horrific circumstances.” Surely, this is not too much to ask.
But, unfortunately, the court has agreed with the government. In dismissing the action, the court relied on an Ontario law that prevents any action against the government after a six-month period. Justice Douglas Cunningham found that no evidence of negligence was disclosed in the claim. Bansie told the Washington Report that the judge’s endorsement is fraught with grounds for appeal and he is consulting with his clients to plan out the next steps.
One would hope that the government would apologize and take responsibility for the actions of its soldiers and allow the family to close this sad chapter of their lives.
Faisal Kutty is a Toronto-based lawyer and international affairs columnist for iViews.com.
Note: First Published: SEPTEMBER 1999, page 113
Tags: Shidane Arone
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