January 10, 2022
Amid mounting tensions with Russia over Ukraine, Canada is making plans to build an ammunition factory in the latter country with help from a number of Ontario-based companies.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has threatened a military response if NATO nations, including Canada, continue with “unfriendly” actions and their “obviously aggressive stance” concerning Ukraine.
Russia is concerned NATO will bring neighbouring Ukraine into the military alliance and has demanded guarantees that it won’t happen. Since November, NATO has been warning that Russia could be planning a large-scale invasion of Ukraine.
Ukraine, which has been fighting Russian-backed separatists since 2014, has been calling on Canada and other NATO countries to provide it with modern weaponry and equipment. Ukraine lacks a facility to produce small-arms ammunition and has been lobbying Canada since 2017 for help in constructing one.
That initiative is now being planned and involves a number of Ontario companies and the Canadian Commercial Corporation in Ottawa. “CCC’s support to Ukraine is currently at the exploratory stage,” confirmed Mouktar Abdillahi, a spokesperson for the corporation.
The Canadian Commercial Corporation is a federal Crown corporation that helps Canadian firms secure international contracts with governments.
The ammunition factory proposal has taken a number of twists and turns over the past seven months.
In June, Waterbury Farrel of Brampton, Ont. announced it had joined with a newly created firm called GL Munitions, based in Toronto, to provide Ukraine with the ammunition-production facility. Waterbury Farrel stated it was working with the Canadian government, through the Canadian Commercial Corporation, to meet that goal. Also involved in the venture was Ukroboronprom, Ukraine’s organization of defence firms.
But GL Munitions has been dissolved, according to federal records. Andrew Leslie, a former Liberal MP and retired Canadian Forces lieutenant general, who was a director at the company, told this newspaper he was no longer associated with the venture. Leslie did not provide further details.
Waterbury Farrel did not respond to a request for comment.
On Nov. 5, the CCC informed Ukroboronprom that GL Munitions had changed its corporate structure. “The founders of the Corporation have indicated that these changes will expedite the process towards finalizing the creation of the small-arms ammunition depot,” the CCC letter noted.
In the same letter, the CCC revealed the existence of a new firm called Gold Leaf Munitions, with the same address in Toronto as GL Munitions. David Angus of the Capital Hill Group in Ottawa is listed as a director of Gold Leaf Munitions, but did not respond to repeated requests for comment. Angus had been previously registered as a consultant for GL Munitions, according to the federal registry of lobbyists.
Ukraine once had a small-arms ammunition production facility, but it is located in an area now controlled by Russian-backed separatists.
In December 2017, the House of Commons defence committee recommended the Canadian government provide weapons to Ukraine, provided it demonstrated it was working to eliminate corruption at all levels of government. Ukraine is considered one of the most corrupt countries in the world, but its government has been trying to deal with the problem.
Canada has already supplied some equipment to Ukraine, including mine-clearing gear, helmets, tents, first-aid kits and bullet-proof vests. A Winnipeg company has also provided sniper rifles.
In response to Russia’s backing of separatists in eastern Ukraine and its annexation of the Crimean Peninsula in 2014, Canada sent troops to help train Ukraine’s military.
Canadian foreign affairs minister Mélanie Joly called on Russia on Friday to “de-escalate and engage in meaningful dialogue — any military incursion into Ukraine will have serious consequences, including coordinated sanctions.”
Besides a ban on Ukraine joining NATO, Putin has demanded that NATO scale back its troops and weapons in the region.
On Friday, though, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg rejected any proposal that would stop the continued expansion of the military alliance or limit the deployment of troops and weapons.
U.S. President Joe Biden has also warned Putin that Russia will pay a “terrible price” for any invasion of Ukraine.