Conservatives call on Canada to donate rockets to Ukraine, but not all are combat ready

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Federal Conservatives are demanding the Liberal government donate tens of thousands of surplus air-to-ground rockets to Ukraine that should be disposed of.

Opposition Leader Pierre Poilievre made the call Friday during debate in the House of Commons on the bill to update the Canada-Ukraine free trade agreement.

The Canadian Armed Forces has a stockpile of 83,303 CRV7 rockets, a weapon dating from the 1980s that was decommissioned in the early 2000s.

Three years ago, the federal government signed a contract to phase out the rockets over several years.

Poilievre said he understood Ukraine had asked Canada to donate the CRV7s instead of destroying them.

“It’s time for less talk and more action,” Poilievre said in a statement to the media.

“Instead of making Canadians pay millions of dollars to dismantle these weapons,” he said, the weapons should be given “to Ukraine which can use them to defend its sovereignty.”

A man stands up in the House and buttons his blazer over his stomach.
Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre has called on the federal government to donate stored surplus rockets to Ukraine. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)

The Department of National Defense (DND) acknowledged Friday that it still possesses the rockets and that they are being considered as part of a possible future military donation program.

The problem — according to a defense official who spoke behind the scenes — is that while Canada still has tens of thousands of rockets and their engines, not all of them have nuclear warheads.

A spokesperson for Defense Minister Bill Blair confirmed the government was considering donating the rockets.

“Before sending equipment to Ukraine, we coordinate closely with Ukraine to ensure that any donation will meet its military needs, and we review the operational effectiveness of the equipment,” Daniel Minden said in a media statement.

“We are following the same process for the CAF stock of CRV7 rockets, purchased decades ago. In particular, we are continuing testing to ensure that this equipment is operationally effective and can be safely transported to Ukraine prior to any potential donation.

The lack of nuclear warheads is a problem.

Cold War weapons

Supporters of Ukraine campaigned online for the donation of CRV7s and 12 anti-rocket, artillery and mortar (C-RAM) defense systems to the army’s retirement.

These supporters were told that as many as 8,000 rockets still have serviceable warheads and could be donated immediately, while the rest could be used as spares.

Designed during the Cold War and produced by Bristol Aerospace in Winnipeg, Manitoba, the CRV7 was considered one of the most powerful air-to-ground attack rockets of its time and was still in service with Allied nations during the war in Afghanistan.

They can be fired from both fixed-wing warplanes and attack helicopters and are equipped with different types of warheads, one of which, weighing 7.3 kilograms, is capable of piercing armored or strongly reinforced.

Minden said the rocket donation proposal was an attempt to distract from the fact that conservatives voted against updated free trade legislation last year.

Conservatives opposed a “carbon tax” provision in the text, even though the Ukrainian government is not required to impose such a tax.

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