Took ‘seconds’ to decide not to work for arms maker



rafe arnott/metro vancouver


Engineer Paul Cottle, at his Vancouver home after quitting his job with MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates Ltd. on ethical grounds.

American engineer Paul Cottle moved to Vancouver from the U.S. because he could not reconcile his tax dollars going to pay for the development of weapons such as bombs and landmines.

Last week, Cottle quit a job he loved when an American arms maker bought part of the Canadian company that produces the Canadarm and Radarsat satellite technology.

Cottle worked with Richmond-based MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates Ltd. (MDA), creator of the remote-controlled Canadarm, which is used on space shuttles.

The company’s space and satellite division was sold to Alliant Techsystems (ATK) this month for $1.325 billion.

"It took me seconds to decide that there’s no way I could work for them," said Cottle, who has a master’s degree in engineering from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. "There was no sleepless night. As a matter of fact, I never felt better than when I told them I was quitting the next day."

Cottle, 31, said there are other colleagues he worked with at MDA who are upset about the acquisition, but he was fortunate to be in a financial position to quit his job because of his principles. He began working in the satellite division three years ago and his last day at MDA was a week ago today.

Cottle said he did not want to belong to any part of any division associated with the Minnesota-based company ATK, which has supplied depleted uranium shells, land mines and cluster bombs to the U.S. military.

"Every once in a while I manage to scrape up a little beam of scruple," said Cottle, who is now looking for work in Vancouver as he prepares to become a Canadian citizen. "I don’t pass judgment for anyone still working for the company but it wasn’t right for me to continue."

political criticisms

  • The NDP’s industry critic Peggy Nash warned the technology could potentially be part of the weaponization of space while former Liberal foreign affairs minister Lloyd Axworthy and Liberal foreign affairs critic Bob Rae have also condemned the selling of MDA’s division.