ACCESS DENIED: U.S. law will limit Canadian access
to RADARSAT-2 data if sale of space division proceeds

OTTAWA — On the same day that Industry Minister Jim Prentice announced a 30-day delay on his decision whether to approve the sale of MacDonald Dettwiler and Associates? (MDA) space division to U.S.-based Alliant Techsystems (ATK), the Rideau Institute and the Canadian Auto Workers (CAW) released a legal opinion that raised concerns about the proposed deal.

“Our legal opinion clearly shows that the sale of MDA’s space division to a
U.S. arms manufacturer would hand Washington the power to deny Ottawa access to images from our own satellite,” said Steven Staples, President of the Rideau Institute.

“This legal opinion also underscores our view that the planned sale would be detrimental to our national sovereignty, the industry as a whole, and ultimately to good, highly specialized Canadian jobs such as at the robotics plant in Brampton, Ontario,” said Carol Phillips, Assistant to CAW President, Buzz Hargrove. “We need federal reinvestment not a wholesale sell-off of our entire space sector.”

The legal opinion was written by Rideau Institute’s Legal Counsel, Steven Shrybman of Sack Goldblatt Mitchell LLP. 

Among his conclusions, Mr. Shrybman said that the proposed sale of MDA assets to ATK is entirely contrary to Canada’s interests and can not reasonably be approved under either the Investment Canada Act or the Remote Sensing Space Systems Act .

More particularly, it is our view that:

•  Under U.S. regulations concerning remote sensing space systems such as RADARSAT-2, U.S. national interests take precedence and will supercede the authority Canada now exercises under the Remote Sensing Space Systems Act over the operation of Radarsat-2, which includes the right to assert priority access to the information it gathers

•  Therefore, the sale of MDA assets to ATK will seriously weaken or defeat Canadas ability to achieve the objectives of Remote Sensing Space Systems Act which are explicitly to “ensure national security, the defence of Canada, the safety of Canadian Forces, Canada’s conduct of international relations, and Canada’s international obligations” and “the competitiveness” of the Canadian remote sensing space industry•  Accordingly, there is no reasonable or lawful basis for approving the transfer of MDA’s satellite license to ATK under the Remote Sensing Space Systems Act.