Corporate Canada and Israel's flagship Elbit Systems

Elbit Systems

Nov. 22, 2023

In my last article I looked at the material flows of the military-industrial complex with a focus on aluminum and Canada’s status as a major aluminum exporter for the Western military industrial complex despite Canada not having bauxite.

Since then, I spoke to activists from Palestine Action who explained that, while they understood the importance of diverse actions and of understanding all the connections between military industry and Western politics, that a number of activists in an affinity network under the banner of “Palestine Action US”, following the example of the UK-based network, argued that a focus on Elbit Systems, the flagship company of Israel’s military-industrial complex, could have a bigger impact on stopping the current genocide than dispersing efforts across the vast number of corporations and elected politicians who participate and profit from it.

In the words of Palestine Action UK:

Elbit Systems is Israel’s largest arms company, with their broad range of activities generating a broad influence in Israel’s militarised, securitised occupation of Palestine. Elbit supplies the Israeli military with 85% of their drones and 85% of their land-based equipment. The company’s surveillance equipment monitors Palestinians through drone operations, at border points, and across Israel’s apartheid wall. Elbit supplies the IDF with all of its small calibre munitions through subsidiary IMI Systems, while its armed remote-control boats which have attacked Palestinian fishermen. Their Hermes drones have been used for extrajudical killings in foreign countries such as Sudan and operations in Egypt, while enabling the slaughter of Palestinians inside Gaza. They were used extensively in the 2008 and 2014 assaults on Gaza, in which Israel killed 1,417 and 2,202 Palestinians respectively, including four boys killed by a Hermes attack while playing on a beach in Gaza in 2014.

The Palestine Action UK site continues - discussing how Elbit markets its systems as “battle tested” (probably better to call them “genocide tested”):

Elbit’s business model is then to sell these technologies on to fuel imperialism elsewhere. Its drones have not only been deployed by British military and border operations, but are employed by the EU’s militarised border agency Frontex. The same technologies outfitting Israel’s apartheid wall run along the US’ border wall with Mexico, and are used for monitoring of indigenous lands. Elbit drones have been puchased in major volumes by India, in turn deploying them in violent military campaigns perpetuating the repression of Kashmiri populations.

The issue of Modi-India’s relationship with Israel will definitely be explored in a later post. First let’s talk about Canada.

Scotiabank and Elbit

The issue of Canada’s many relationships with Elbit Systems has arisen before. It turns out that Scotiabank’s investment arm is one of Elbit’s largest foreign investors, with some $500M ownership, 5% of the publicly traded company. Back in 2022, a shareholder, Angus Wong, at Scotiabank’s Annual Shareholders Meeting asked bank executives about the investment:

ANGUS WONG: …in 2022, Bloomberg reported that the investment arm of Scotia, 1832 is the largest foreign shareholder of an infamous weapons company, Elbit Systems , owning roughly 5% of the shares, valuing roughly at $500 million. For reference, RBC and TD Bank combined has 3 million worth of shares in the Elbit Systems. So making Scotia's and 1832 investment pretty big for a bank in size.

Elbit Systems for background has been responsible for countless deaths around the world with its tanks and drones, help build the Trump border wall. The weapons -- its weapons has been found in the hands of military junta in Myanmar and until last year, according to MSCI tied to controversial weapons.

Since October, 12,000 members of the organization, I represent (inaudible), formerly some of us signed a petition calling for Scotiabank to divest from Elbit Systems. I delivered the names of the 12,000 people that signed the petition, some of which are customers and shareholders to Julie Walsh earlier today. And I've had -- I've been engaging in dialogue with her and some of the senior team for the past couple of months, and it's going pretty well. The big question remains from our 12,000 members who signed a petition, why does the third or fourth biggest bank in Canada own so many shares in this weapons company?

I think this week, I started figuring out why, a journalist contacted me, and he believes that one fund manager at Scotia own -- at Dynamic Funds -- sorry, like Scotia owns Dynamic Funds, has been using middle-class families investments to invest in these companies based on his political views. The full story will come up later this week.

So we believe this type of investment with customers' money erodes customers trust and has a reputational risk to Scotia shareholders. So my question is ahead of next year's AGM, will you develop policies to address this reputational risks?

Scotiabank’s Group Head of Global Wealth Management, Glen B. Gowland, responded with the predictable word salad - that the investment in Elbit was simply a matter of getting the best return for customers (let’s return to that in a minute) and anyway Scotiabank was independent of its asset management arm (which means, basically, no one is responsible!)

GLEN B. GOWLAND, GROUP HEAD OF GLOBAL WEALTH MANAGEMENT, THE BANK OF NOVA SCOTIA: Sure. Thanks very much. I appreciate the question. Scotia Global Asset Management is the second largest investment fund company in Canada. We have over $200 billion of investable assets that we manage on behalf of millions of Canadians in over 200 investment mandates. 14 of those investment mandates own Elbit Systems, it's actually about 0.3% of the overall assets. One thing that's very important to note is that we,, at Scotia Global Asset Management, have a fiduciary obligation to act in the best interest of the owners of those investment funds. And we take that obligation very, very seriously. Elbit Systems is included in many of the well-known indices around the world.

Elbit’s stock price on the NASDAQ seemed to drop for a while after October 7, but then started to climb again after the ground invasion of October 27.

Elbit stock tracks Israel’s military action

Angus Wong was quoted in a media article later as the campaign manager for the advocacy group SumOfUs, now known as Eko, identifying the principal complaint at that time against Elbit being its production of cluster munitions. Scotiabank spokesperson Heather Armstrong repeated Elbit’s claim that they don’t do cluster munitions any more: “1832 Asset Management does not knowingly invest in companies that directly manufacture cluster munitions”. Perhaps someone will ask Armstrong, if still in that role, whether 1832 Asset Management knowingly invests in companies that commit genocide. Australia’s A Future Fund and Norway’s KLP excluded Elbit because the firm didn’t meet their human rights criteria. Alas, if only Scotiabank had such criteria!

Heather Armstrong repeated Elbit’s claim that they don’t do cluster munitions any more: “1832 Asset Management does not knowingly invest in companies that directly manufacture cluster munitions”. Perhaps someone will ask Armstrong, if still in that role, whether 1832 Asset Management knowingly invests in companies that commit genocide.

Canadian government contracts directly with Elbit

It isn’t just banks. The Canadian government contracts directly with Elbit. From a December 21, 2020 public announcement:

Today, the Honourable Anita Anand, Minister of Public Services and Procurement, and the Minister of Transport, the Honourable Marc Garneau, announced the Government of Canada has awarded a $36.16‑million contract to Elbit Systems Ltd. for the acquisition of a remotely piloted aircraft system (RPAS) or drone.

Another initiative was called the Airspace Coordination Centre Modernization (ASCCM): “In December 2021, Canada signed an $8.6 million(USD) acquisition and in-service support contract with Elbit Systems UK. The contract will deliver the last software required for the complete modernization of CAF's Airspace Coordination Centres (ASCC). Delivery of these remaining software components is expect by June 2022.” The software in question is called the TORCH-X Battle Management Application (BMA), which apparently provides “situational awareness by constantly displaying a local or recognized air picture, thus enabling effective co-ordination of air assets into complex land and joint battlespace. The system will be operated utilising Elbit Systems’ E-CIXTM open architecture framework that will enable connectivity to the Canadian Armed Forces’ legacy applications and tactical datalinks while also allowing future integration of new applications in support of the Canadian Armed Forces digital transformation plan.”

German subsidiary Rheinmetall in Ottawa and Elbit

Canadian institutions connected to Elbit are as dispersed as Internet nodes. Ottawa-based Rheinmetall Canada (a subsidiary of a German military company) boasts that its “400 employees put their expertise to work in order to deliver solutions that you can trust.” Two such solutions are joint ventures with Elbit, according to the company’s press release for the Canadian Arms Bazaar event (CANSEC, a focus of the World Beyond War campaign) 2022:

  • Night Vision System Modernization (NVSM) project: Rheinmetall is again teaming up with Elbit Systems for the NVSM project, which will address upcoming capability gaps in the current Army’s night vision equipment fleet. As a solution of choice for the Laser Range Finder – Hand Held Imager – Long Range’ program, Rheinmetall will be presenting Elbit’s advanced target locator and intelligence system named AION-C.

  • Joint Fire Modernization (JFM) project: Rheinmetall and Elbit Systems join forces in pursuit of Canada’s Joint Fires Modernization (JFM) project – an initiative that will enable the near real-time sharing of tactical, operational, and strategic fires and effects information through a digital network, delivering an immediate common operating picture.

Newfoundland based Kraken Robotics and Elbit

Last year a breathless press release (Sept 29/22) from Kraken Robotics outlined a new sonar system they developed in partnership with Elbit.

With live demos and sea trials, the Royal Navy are better able to understand the demonstrated technology including software, sensors, and effectors necessary to implement a highly reliable Mine Hunting Capability (MHC).

For these trials, Kraken teamed with Elbit Systems UK to demonstrate the KATFISH High Speed Towed Synthetic Aperture Sonar System integrated to their Seagull 12-meter Uncrewed Surface Vessel (USV).

Beyond the Royal Navy, the KATFISH system has customers in Denmark and Poland.

Montreal’s Top Aces and Elbit

In February 2022, defence contractor Top Aces tested a new system modernizing the F-16. Aviation News reported on Feb 17/22:

Montreal, Quebec-based defence contractor Top Aces undertook the maiden flight of its first Lockheed Martin F-16 Advanced Aggressor Fighter (AAF) – N854TA – outfitted with an Advanced Aggressor Mission System (AAMS) from Arizona’s Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport on January 19.

Retrofitted to the former Israeli Air Force jet at the firm’s Mesa F-16 Center of Excellence by M7 Aerospace and Elbit Systems of America, the F-16AAF will be able to replicate the most advanced capabilities of contemporary air-to-air combat opponents.

It certainly looks like Israel’s F-16 inventory of 175 combat aircraft were engaged in some “advanced aggression” in Gaza over the past 7 weeks, killing more 14,000 people, 5,000 of whom were children. The Advanced Aggressor Mission System would appear to be working successfully.

Perhaps you might feel a certain way about your deposits going to a bank, however independent, whose investment arm is the largest foreign investor in the flagship company of Israel’s military-industrial complex.

Completely unrelated, have you ever thought about how hard it is to change banks in Canada? With all the direct deposits and automatic bills, closing fees and transfer fees that have to be paid. The banks make it so difficult because losing depositors hurts them too. It’s probably better to make all the arrangements and transfer the money first, and then close the account once everything is already in place at the new bank. While it’s probably ideal to change to a Credit Union that doesn’t even have an investment arm, it’s still inconvenient. Hard to compare the inconvenience of changing banks with the inconvenience of suffering a genocide.

Anyway I found this guide on a site called

How to Switch Banks

Step 1: Open an account with the new financial institution

Step 2: Transfer money to your new account - piecemeal or all at once

Step 3: Set up direct deposits and bill payments

Step 4: Close your bank account. There may be closing fees and transfer fees. If you have a credit card, switch it to a no-fee card and keep it dormant. 

Step 5: Send your old bank a message saying why you closed your account.