Rather than banning arms tradeshows from city-owned facilities, the city’s corporate services committee voted to ensure space for them in the future.
In 1989, Ottawa city council passed a motion prohibiting city property from being leased for arms exhibitions.
That prohibition was removed in 1999 when ownership of Lansdowne Park was transferred to the Regional Municipality of Ottawa-Carleton, then back to the city after amalgamation.
That left the city with a policy “void” regarding military tradeshows at Lansdowne Park, according to city solicitor Rick O’Connor, which allowed the national defence and security trade show CANSEC to use the park a couple of weeks ago.
This prompted Bay Ward Councillor Alex Cullen to put forward a motion to reinstitute the 20-year-old ban on arms tradeshows.
After two meetings where dozens of public delegations spoke mostly in favour of the ban, the city’s corporate services committee unanimously rejected the motion.
Instead, they carried a motion for the city to “continue to include consideration of national level tradeshows in its economic development strategies and practices and in its facilities allocation policies.”
Brenda Carr Vellino, one of public presenters who supported the motion banning arms shows said she felt as if councillors had “pulled a fast one.”
“It’s very, very undemocratic,” she said. “The trade show does not display cluster bomb munitions but it does display computer components that go into weapons delivery systems.”
College Ward Councillor Rick Chiarreli argued that Canadian soldiers going over to places like Afghanistan would feel a little more confident knowing that Ottawa did everything they could to ensure they had the best possible equipment.
“We have to act like the city that is the national capital and let the federal government conduct its business for which people elect their MPs,” he said.
Capital Ward Councilor argued that supporting military tradeshows undermines the mission to create peace in Afghanistan.
“How can that message be sustained for our troops when our capital city is voting for an armaments sale in its principal park?” he asked. “It says that were are more interested in war than in peace. I don’t think its true, but that’s the message it sends.”