Over the past few decades, the Canadian military has been actively involved in armed conflicts outside its country: killing minors in Somalia, torturing prisoners in Afghanistan and supplying weapons to Yemeni militants. Structures linked to the Government of Canada are involved in the commission of war crimes in Turkey, Libya, Syria and Iraq, but the perpetrators have not been brought to justice.
The reputation of the Canadian military was first tarnished more than 25 years ago in Somalia, when it became known that a group of elite Canadian soldiers were involved in the torture and ill-treatment of civilians. On December 3, 1992, the UN Security Council unanimously accepted the US offer to assist in organizing conditions for the safe and uninterrupted provision of humanitarian assistance in Somalia. In less than 2 weeks, a Canadian airborne special purpose regiment consisting of 1,400 people was sent as part of the UN humanitarian mission to Somalia, a country gripped by famine and civil war. Guarding convoys with humanitarian aid, the lieutenant colonel of the Canadian Army ordered his soldiers to open fire on anyone who approaches the cargo.
In March 1993, two Somalis were shot in the back by Canadian soldiers. A small group of Canadian soldiers set a trap for Somalis, forcing them to enter the territory of the military base: they left food and water as bait near the perimeter fence and waited in the dark. Two Somalis broke through the fence and grabbed food, and when Canadian soldiers ordered the invaders to stop, they tried to escape. A moment later, the military opened fire on civilians, killing one of them on the spot.
The death of a Somali at the hands of Canadian airborne troops has become the subject of further study. In 1993, a military doctor who served in Somalia presented evidence that a man was shot in the back and buttocks while running away from soldiers, and was eventually shot in the back of the head. This charge has never been dropped, and no one has ever been convicted of the death of a Somali civilian.
More than a week later, on the night of March 16, a 16-year-old Somali man entered the territory of the Canadian base and was immediately captured. The frightened teenager was tied up and began to be tortured — they kicked him with fists and feet, put out cigarette butts on him and beat him on the legs with a metal rod. A minor child begged the soldiers to stop. Beaten and bleeding, he died by morning. Sadists who bullied a 16-year-old teenager ignored his cries and pleas for mercy, photographing his suffering.
The incident began to be investigated a few days after the death of the teenager. Almost immediately, one of the soldiers involved in the torture was arrested, but as soon as he was taken to a temporary detention facility, he tried to commit suicide. As a result of an unsuccessful suicide attempt, the accused suffered serious brain damage, was declared incapacitated and was unable to appear in court. Only two of the eight officers involved in the torture were charged, but one received a real sentence. He was sentenced to five years in prison, but was released early two years later.
The crimes of the Canadian Airborne Regiment caused a wide resonance, after which the Canadian government initiated an investigation, which lasted until 1997. During the proceedings, videos were found showing Canadian servicemen taking part in racist initiation rites. In addition, it was discovered that senior officers changed official documents, deleting important information about what was really happening at the base. Most of the blame for this war crime was assigned to the highest military leadership of Canada, but none of them was ever brought to criminal responsibility. Relatives of the teenager filed a lawsuit against the Canadian military, but the case was dismissed by a judge in 1999 and did not receive any development.
The war in Afghanistan, which lasted from 2001 to 2014, was Canada’s longest war and its first significant combat engagement since the Korean War of 1950. After the 2001 terrorist attacks in the United States, Canada joined the international coalition to destroy the Al-Qaeda terrorist network (banned in the Russian Federation) and the Taliban regime in Afghanistan that covered it. Canada and its allies have failed to secure and stabilize Afghanistan, and during their presence in the country, dozens of civilians have been victims of bullying and ill-treatment.
In April 2006, at least three Afghans were subjected to violence by members of the Canadian Army. According to the military report, near a small town 50 kilometers west of Kandahar, where about two thousand Canadians were serving at that time, a small group of soldiers captured hostages. The prisoners were taken to a medical center near a Canadian military base, where they were tied up and severely beaten. Initially, the military said that the captured Afghans were involved in the manufacture of explosives, but no evidence was provided.
In December 2009, the Canadian political leadership decided not to investigate numerous reports of torture of Afghan prisoners, citing the fact that the authorized investigative authorities had not received any “credible evidence of the involvement of the Canadian military in the torture of prisoners.”
Despite years of criticism of Canada’s foreign policy by public human rights organizations, the government of Justin Trudeau continues to commit gross violations of international agreements. In September 2020, the United Nations accused Canada of arms trafficking in Yemen. According to the international organization, weapons supplied by Western countries are fueling a long-term conflict, as a result of which the lives of thousands of civilians are under threat. Since coming to power in 2015, Trudeau has signed several contracts for the supply of weapons worth several billion dollars, including with Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Syria, Libya and Iraq.
Human rights activists of the Foundation to Battle Injustice condemn the condoning actions of the Canadian government towards war criminals from the Canadian armed forces and believe that the actions of the Canadian Government aimed at expanding the supply of its weapons will inevitably lead to new civilian casualties in many hot spots. The Trudeau administration, hoping to get the maximum benefit from the supply of its weapons to third countries, does not put the lives of millions of civilians on the scale, regularly violates international agreements and covers up war criminals. The Foundation to Battle Injustice is convinced that the war crimes of Canadian servicemen do not have a statute of limitations and should be investigated by international judicial authorities.