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Sovereignty for Sale

Part one of a two-part series on the sale of MacDonald Dettwiler and Associates taxpayer-funded space assets to the world's largest maker of ammunition (including cluster bombs) to the benefit of the Ontario Teacher's Pension Fund among others.

A link to Part two is available on The Space Commerce Blog


"The project to build Radarsat-2 -- 'R2,' as it is commonly called -- had started nine years ago and was now in its final stages before the system would be packaged and shipped to Kazakhstan for launch.

Quite simply, this made-in-Canada satellite is the most advanced of its kind in the world. It was designed to allow Canadian scientists to view objects on the earth three metres wide from an altitude of around 800 kilometres. It would also be able to spot ships moving through Canadian waters, monitor environmental problems such as oil spills, measure crop conditions and map the extent of the country's forest resources.

As a mark of its imminent commercial success, dozens of customers in various nations had lined up for its services before it was even launched.

R2 was Canada's ace in the hole when it came to protecting the country's sovereignty in the Arctic. With climate change reducing the amount of ice in the North, Canada is facing challenges to its claims of ownership of key parts of its territory, mainly from the United States but also from nations such as Russia and Denmark.

Just months earlier, Prime Minister Stephen Harper had made one of his strongest speeches yet on Canada's plans to assert its sovereignty in the North.

"Canada has a choice when it comes to defending our sovereignty in the Arctic: either we use it or we lose it," Mr. Harper said. "Make no mistake; this government intends to use it."

And Radarsat-2, built by MacDonald Dettwiler and Associates of Richmond, B.C., was the route to that goal, according to government and military officials.

"This satellite will help us vigorously protect our Arctic sovereignty as international interest in the region increases," Mr. Prentice told reporters during the October gathering, following up on the prime minister's earlier speech.

Yet five months later, the Conservative government's leadership is being called into question, along with the very future of the country's space industry.

U.S. aerospace giant Alliant Techsystems announced in January that it was buying MacDonald Dettwiler's information and geospatial division. And with that $1.325-billion deal comes ownership of Radarsat-2 and most of Canada's space capabilities."

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