Canada has given up trying to find a buyer for its surplus army tanks after what appears to be a last ditch attempt to move them to Jordan fizzled out, Global News has learned.
Canada has about 50 surplus Leopard 1C2 battle tanks and 11 Leopard 1 armoured engineering vehicles left over from the original batch of about 127 Leopard 1s Canada purchased, beginning in 1978.
But the Canadian Army parked its Leopard 1s for good last year and has moved over completely to the more modern Leopard 2 tanks. The army has a fleet of 82 Leopard 2 battle tanks, spread throughout the country at CFB Edmonton, CFB Montreal, and CFB Gagetown near Fredericton, New Brunswick.
The surplus Leopard 1s are parked largely in the same locations.
Global News has learned there appears to have been a last-ditch attempt to move the Cold War-era tanks to Jordan.
On Feb. 20, 2018, Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan received a briefing note titled “Provision of Leopard Tanks to JAF.” Defence industry sources believe “JAF” referred to “Jordan Armed Forces.”
The briefing note was referred to in another document obtained by Global News using federal access-to-information laws. Global News has not yet been able to obtain the full briefing note.
Canada had posted its notice of intent to sell the surplus Leopard 1 tanks in September 2015.
Neither Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan nor any officials with Jordan’s embassy in Canada would speak about the briefing note Sajjan received in February.
Other than Israel, Jordan is Canada’s most important ally in the Middle East and has received significant financial and other aid from Canada over decades.
If there was any interest in the Jordan option, it appears to have fizzled.
And now, the Department of National Defence has pretty much given up finding any buyer for the Cold War-era machines.
“No firm buyer was found and the Department is assessing alternate disposal options,” defence department spokesman Daniel Le Bouthillier said in a statement e-mailed to Global News Friday.
The list of countries to whom Canada would have been prepared to sell the tanks is relatively small. Canada would not have moved the tanks to a country where the presence of new squadrons of tanks could have been destabilizing for the region.
“The marketplace for us to sell and basically keep within most of our policies to not abet countries that are, shall we say, problematic, is pretty limited,” said Rob Huebert, a senior research fellow at the Centre for Military and Strategic Analysis at the University of Calgary.
Huebert said even selling them to Jordan might have been a problem for Israel, Canada’s other ally in the region, which might have been made a little nervous if its eastern neighbour became even a little stronger militarily.
Other potential buyers might be human rights violators. The Trudeau government has already come under fire for honouring a commitment it inherited from the Harper government to allow the sale of armoured vehicles made in Canada to Saudi Arabia, a country which does not hold nearly the same respect for human rights that Canada does.
Le Bouthillier said 11 of the surplus tanks will be converted to artifacts, museum pieces that will be displayed outside armouries or other facilities to mark Canada’s military heritage.
No decisions have been made on what will happen to the rest of the surplus fleet. Several — perhaps all — could be used as targets for practicing gunners in the newer Leopard 2s.
“The last option would be to destroy the tanks,” Le Bouthillier said