The big business of selling Canadian technology to Turkey

The largest-ever contingent of Canadian companies is at this year's defence and security industries conference in Istanbul.

Turkey's booming defence sector is making it a 'priority market' for many Canadian companies

Weaponry and defence is big business

8 years ago
Duration 2:35
Record number of Canadian companies in Istanbul this week, hoping to seal multimillion-dollar weapons deals

The Canadian flag is flying in Istanbul this weekend, where Canadian technology and innovation are very much in evidence and it's all for sale.

The Canadian presence at the annual defence industry fair (IDEF) is larger than it has ever been.  This year, nearly 30 companies from cities like Toronto, Hamilton, Montreal and Vancouver are busy pitching their products.

Many are world leaders in their industries. But there are other companies at the fair that many Canadians have never heard of. 

"They are surprised that this kind of technology originates in Canada," says Ken Smart, president of EOMAX Canada, a company that makes thermal cameras and wireless video systems. 

"The automatic assumption is that these kind of things come from somewhere else."

But they develop their products in Toronto. The city's heavy urban search-and-rescue team uses the company's gear, as do police forces around the world.

The Los Angeles Police Department's SWAT team is another client.

"The [technology has] this ability to understand whether people are armed," Smart says. "Whether these are just innocent bystanders that have been caught in a position where they are in danger."

Quebec-based Genetec Solutions' electronic eyes are watching in a different way -- particularly if you've ever passed through a major airport in North America, Europe, or the Middle East.
Nearly 30 Canadian companies, the largest group ever here, are part of the Canada pavilion at this year's IDEF (International Defence and Security Industries Fair) in Istanbul, Turkey. (Turgut Yeter/CBC NEWS)

"Rome, Schiphol, Prague, Charles de Gaulle," Genetec vice-president Ted Ghali says, listing off some of the airports the company serves. Their systems run at Toronto's Pearson airport, too.

"Mecca is also protected by Genetec," he adds.

So are two of Istanbul's most important historical sites – Topkapi Palace and the Hagia Sophia.

"They are 75 million [people] here and their need is totally different in security than in Canada and when there is potential of such huge concrete results, we ought to be here."

Ghali is now hoping to help secure Turkey's airports and to help take Istanbul off the list as having the world's worst traffic.

Vitaly Paroshyn is watching the deal developments closely for the province of Ontario.
Ken Smart, the president of Toronto company EOMAX, points out how his company's wireless thermal imaging cameras capture images. (Turgut Yeter/CBC News)

"Turkey is a priority market for the Ontario government -- defence and security, a variety of advanced manufacturing goods, agricultural equipment machinery, agri-food products and industrial machinery," he says at the Canada pavilion at the trade show.

Paroshyn says Ontario is looking to build on a trade relationship with Turkey that hit $800 million last year.

Retired Turkish navy officer Ramazan Kara is a consultant who works with several Canadian companies, including Indal Technologies, a Toronto firm that has sold aircraft handling systems for naval ships.

"If you are going to realize a program in Turkey, you need a Turkish partner," Kara says, giving a nod to to Turkish laws that require "local content".

Smart says companies like his also need more support from Canada's federal government to build the brands at home and abroad.

CADSI, the Canadian Association of Defence and Security Industries, organized the Canada Pavilion with its own funding and about $500,000 from Ottawa.

The deal-making won't end when the conference closes this weekend. CADSI will host a delegation representing Turkish companies in Ottawa later this month.