AND THEY WONDER WHY THE WORLD DOESN'T LIKE THEM MUCH....
From today's globe:Ottawa aims to soften U.S. arms-contract rules 'It's discrimination, pure and simple,' barred Syrian-born technician complains
DANIEL LEBLANC OTTAWA Georges Nahas has lived in Canada for 24 years, and spent 19 of them working for
Helicopter. Last week, he found out he will always be treated as a security threat by the U.S. military.
Despite Charter provisions that prevent discrimination based on nationality, the citizen of Canada and Syria -- along with 23 other dual-national colleagues -- was told he will never be able to work on U.S. military contracts at his workplace in Mirabel, Que.
Mr. Nahas was the latest Canadian to fall afoul of Pentagon rules that prevent people from certain countries from coming into contact with U.S. military data.
"I feel like a second-class citizen. It's discrimination, pure and simple," said Mr. Nahas, a technician who assembles helicopters.
The Conservative government has been negotiating with U.S. officials since last year to find a solution to this U.S.-imposed contractual condition, with no movement so far.
In addition, The Globe and Mail has learned that if ever an agreement is struck, it will help only affected federal employees and their subcontractors, and not private-sector workers such as Mr. Nahas.
The problems stem from U.S. rules called the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR), which prevent citizens from about 20 countries -- China, Cuba, Syria and Lebanon, among others -- from working on U.S. military contracts in foreign countries.
The ITAR, which are strictly enforced by the U.S. government, are applied to Canadian citizens who also hold the citizenship of these proscribed countries, even if they have the appropriate clearance.
Helicopter asked the U.S. government last year for a waiver for people such as Mr. Nahas, stating they have excellent work records.
"The answer came back this week from the Department of State that essentially said there is no waiver for anyone, in any circumstance,"
Helicopter spokesman Michel Legault, who acknowledged the answer came as a disappointment, said on Friday.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper said he is looking for a solution.
"We have serious preoccupations with this policy," Mr. Harper said. "I can only say that we'll keep on trying to resolve the situation." The Conservative government launched a diplomatic offensive last year to persuade the U.S. government to change the restrictions on dual nationals and replace them with individualized security checks. Senior Conservative ministers have raised the issue with their American counterparts, and Canada's ambassador to Washington has been lobbying on the matter.
There has been no movement, even as the government is negotiating $13-billion in aircraft purchases from U.S. suppliers.
As it stands, the ITAR would affect dual nationals in the Department of National Defence working on the project, as well as those working in private-sector companies that would help build or maintain the aircraft. In that context, Canadian officials are hoping to find an agreement to allow those dual nationals to work on the aircraft.
However, the current set of negotiations would not help people in Canada, such as Mr. Nahas, who are working for companies that receive their contracts from the U.S.
Ron Kane, a specialist on the issue at the Aerospace Industries Association of Canada, confirmed that a settlement would not include all Canadians.
"We understand there may be some movement to first reach accommodation for Government of Canada employees," Mr. Kane said. "That may then be the foundation to move ahead with the industry on a more comprehensive basis." The current situation is creating headaches across Canada.
CAE Inc., a Montreal-based firm that produces flight simulators, was openly advertising openings that called on applicants to meet ITAR restrictions until late last year.
At a plant in Ontario that produces military vehicles, one employee has to be accompanied by a colleague to go to the washroom because she has to walk through a part of the building that is off-limits to dual nationals. That person's computer also has special filters that remove ITAR-sensitive information.
Mr. Nahas said he recently learned he no longer has access to parts of his workplace at
Helicopter. "It's because of the U.S. foreign policy. I don't want to blame the company. But who suffers from this? We are the victims at the end of the day," he said.
Lawyers said the matter is still untested in Canadian courts.
The Ontario Human Rights Tribunal is hearing the case of seven dual nationals working at a military plant in London, Ont. "