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Montreal, March 9, 2011 --- As hundreds of engineering students in local Montreal universities are about to graduate and hit the job market, they should be aware that many will never find work in Canadian aerospace companies due to the U.S. International Traffic in Arms Regulations, better known as ITAR, because of their country of origin.

International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) are a set of United States government regulations that govern military contracts and control the export and import of defense-related articles and services on the United States Munitions List (USML) with the purpose of safeguarding the US national security, as well as strengthening its ability to counter threats such as the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

Information and material pertaining to defense and military related technologies may only be shared with U.S. persons unless authorization from the Department of State is received or a special exemption is used. U.S. persons (including companies such as Boeing, Lockheed-Martin, Motorola, etc.) can face heavy fines if they have, without authorization or the use of an exemption, provided foreign (non-US) persons with access to ITAR-protected defense articles, services or technical data.

Although ITAR refer to dual and third-country national employees, in practice, it is the country of birth that is used to deny a person equal employment or training opportunity. Regardless of how long one has had Canadian citizenship or permanent residency, many employers will screen out applicants or employees who were born in the following proscribed countries:

  • Africa : Congo, Democratic Republic of (formerly Zaire); Eritrea; Ivory Coast; Liberia; Libya; Rwanda; Sierra Leone; Somalia; Sudan and Zimbabwe
  • Asia : China (PR); Myanmar (formerly Burma); North Korea; Sri Lanka and Vietnam
  • Europe : Belarus and Cyprus
  • Latin America and Caribbean: Cuba; Haiti and Venezuela
  • Middle East: Afghanistan; Iran; Iraq; Lebanon, Libya; Syria and Yemen.
  • “We have just finished celebrating Black History Month in this city, and not a word was said about the fact that the entire Haitian community, and many other Black students from Africa, are systemically deprived of equal employment opportunities in the aerospace industry, not only as engineers, but in all other positions as well,” said Simone Samuels, a McGill law student who works on the CRARR information campaign on ITAR.

    For Vicheka Lay, a Cambodian-born Masters of Law student at McGill who also works on this project, the information comes as a shock: “ITAR is an example of how global trade can violate, through private extraterritorial contracts, a country's sovereignty and citizenship and civil rights laws.”

    Most students will not even know that they are being discriminated against because of their national or ethnic origin (i.e. country of birth), since most will not get a reply for their job applications. Their universities and engineering programs do not inform them of such regulations.

    As well, most students are not aware of their civil rights as protected by human rights legislation at the federal and provincial levels, especially where discrimination in employment and the deadline for legal action are concerned. Many students also have a complacent attitude in light of such explicitly illegal forms of racial discrimination, as they will prefer not to challenge these restrictions.

    “This is very sad, as students are not only losing equal rights and opportunities, but also up to $30,000 in compensation for being victims of discrimination,” said Fo Niemi, CRARR's Executive Director. “Well-educated, motivated and proud students should not accept discrimination as a part of life. They should file lawsuits and pressure the Canadian government to stand up for Canadians,” said Niemi.

    Since 2007, CRARR has, as a civil rights organization, successfully challenged ITAR-based discrimination before the Quebec human rights commission and negotiated satisfactory settlements for victims of ITAR. It has also successfully pressured Emploi-Quebec not to accept job ads with ITAR requirements as these ads are equivalent to “No Blacks” ads. CRARR encourages engineering students who may be discriminated to contact its office once they have decided to file civil rights complaints.