ontario news watch

There are many words to describe Canada’s $15 billion arms deal with the human-rights abusing, war crimes committing regime of Saudi Arabia.

‘Disgraceful’ is one. ‘Reprehensible’ would be another. ‘Immoral’ and ‘inexcusable’ also come to mind. So too does ‘shameful’ and ‘sordid’.

As for how everyday Canadians feel about said deal, I’m sure the words ‘appalled’ and ‘mortified’ would not be far from their lips, especially after learning that Riyadh is using Canadian-made arms to perpetuate its war in Yemen; a war, which let us not forget, has resulted in the death of a quarter of a million people – ten thousand of whom have been children. With millions more displaced and on the brink of starvation, the battleground in Yemen has long been referred to as the “world’s worst humanitarian crisis.”

In the face of such calamity (and with the knowledge of our governments culpability for that calamity), most Canadians probably aren’t feeling too proud of their country’s arms sales.

Well, most Canadians outside Stephen Harper that is.

In a recent post on twitter, Harper announced his plans to tour the United Arab Emirates, Oman, and Saudi Arabia, all to promote “Israeli-based surveillance systems.” After heaping praise upon the three Gulf countries, Harper egregiously wrote of the pride he has for the military contract he brokered with the Saudis.

In typical fashion, Harper omitted the fact that the contract in question, the one that he is so “proud” of, enabled the Saudis to obtain hundreds of Canadian-made, light-armoured vehicles (LAVs), which they subsequently used to lay-waste upon Yemen.

Instead, Harper had the nerve to describe the deal as nothing other than a “manufacturing contract” though he still lauded it as the most lucrative of its kind in Canadian history.

The $15 billion LAV sale may indeed be Canada’s largest export manufacturing contract, as Harper says it is. But that does not make the deal any less odious, as no amount of financial profit or number of jobs secured can ever justify the facilitation of violence and war.

Granted, that has not stopped Harper from defending the deal, both in and out of office.

During his final years as Prime Minister, when Canada’s military agreement with the Saudis was first being brokered, Harper tried his best to justify the deal, including by citing the Gulf Kingdom’s opposition to the Islamic state as cause for selling them arms. He continued to do so even as reports were coming in saying that “the LAVs that Canada had already sold to Saudi Arabia had been used in Bahrain when Saudi Arabia went in there to suppress a peaceful demonstration.”

Six years later, and Harper is still making the same weak justifications for the deal. In his twitter communique, Harper claimed that Canada’s relationship with Saudi Arabia is “grounded in shared opposition to the threat posed to the region and wider world by the regime in Iran.

Do you see the pattern here? Harper can absolve himself of all blame for the ruination of Yemen and the subjugation of the Saudi people, so long as he can point the finger at the Islamic State, Iran, or any other regime that he can use to justify his selling of arms to Riyadh. He picks and chooses the countries whose human rights records concern him, as defined by his own narrow worldview.

So unflinching is he in his beliefs, that even if Iran didn’t exist, the former Prime Minister would just fabricate a new enemy in its place to explain and excuse his unbending support for the Crown Prince. He’d find any way he could to not see the flaws in his own thinking, or the culpability he has for the devastation of Yemen.

No matter the human rights abuses and war crimes that pile up, Harper will only continue his defence of Saudi Arabia and the noxious arms deal he brokered.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by columnists and contributors are the author’s alone. They do not inherently or expressly reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of our publication.

At least 233,000 people, many of whom are civilians, have been killed in Yemen since war broke out six years ago between Saudi Arabia and its coalition allies, and the Houthi rebels.

A further four million have been internally displaced as a result of the conflict, with 13 million on the verge of starvation and more than 24 million in desperate need of humanitarian assistance.

So dire is the situation, so rampant the human suffering, that for several years now, the United Nations has designated it as the “world’s worst humanitarian crisis.”

Throughout all this time, one might have expected Justin Trudeau, the self-proclaimed feminist and promoter of international peace and security, to have taken a real leadership role on the issue and helped support a ceasefire between the two warring factions; something any responsible G7 leader would do.

But no.

Instead of trying to broker peace, or even just eliminating Canada’s culpability, Trudeau has shamed Canadians everywhere by enabling the conflict, including by approving permits and authorizing the export of military equipment to one of the chief antagonists in the war – Saudi Arabia.

Between 2016 and 2020, Trudeau’s Liberal government permitted the sale and export of five thousand sniper rifles (manufactured in Winnipeg by PGW Defence Technologies Inc) along with hundreds of light armored vehicles (LAVs), made locally in London, Ontario by General Dynamics Land Systems, to the tune of billions of dollars.

Perhaps most shockingly, the government has continued to sell military equipment to Riyadh, despite receiving an abundance of evidence over the years demonstrating that the Saudis have been using Canadian-made arms to continue their campaign of terror and violence.

The evidence against Canada began to mount so much that eventually the United Nations took notice. In September 2020, its Human Rights Council panel on Yemen singled out Canada for being one of the few countries in the world guilty of perpetuating the humanitarian crisis through its noxious arms sales.

And they weren’t the only ones.

Amnesty International and Project Ploughshares both found through their extensive, well-documented research that “there is persuasive evidence that weapons exported from Canada to (the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia), including (light armored vehicles) and sniper rifles, have been diverted for use in the war in Yemen.”

As Kelsey Gallagher, a researcher at Project Ploughshares has written, not only are these weapons “facilitating the conflict itself” but they also facilitating “potential war crimes.”

Unfortunately, none of this information is likely to deter Trudeau from continuing to supply the Saudis with Canadian-made arms.

Even before he became Prime Minister, Trudeau made his tacit support of Stephen Harper’s $15 billion deal to export LAVs to Saudi Arabia well-known. On the 2015 campaign trail, he absurdly claimed that he wouldn’t cancel the deal because the LAVs were only “jeeps” and that it wasn’t a government sale at all, but rather “an agreement between a manufacturing company here in Canada and Saudi Arabia.”

Both statements were purposely misleading, even patently false, which means that even as rookie opposition leader, Trudeau was reneging on his promise of instituting a more transparent and honest government.

Realizing that Canadians weren’t buying his lame excuses, Trudeau went on to employ a different strategy for sluffing off responsibility; one which involved blaming his predecessor for brokering the LAV deal in the first place, all while conveniently omitting the fact that it was his government who made the “crucial approval of the first export permits.

With logic like this, soon the Trudeau Liberals will be telling us it’s also Harper’s fault that Canada now exports more weapons abroad than ever before, or that it was the Conservatives who forced the government to approve its 2020 deal with Canadian business connections, for the sale of $73.9 million worth of explosives to Saudi Arabia.

But of course, that would just be more lies and cowardly excuse-making.

The Canadian administration most responsible for facilitating Saudi Arabia’s devastating military campaign, is the current Liberal government.

While Harper was a villain in his own right on arms exportation, it is Trudeau above all others that must be held accountable for enabling the Saudis to lay waste upon Yemen.

Regardless of whatever else will be said about Trudeau in the history books, the desolation of Yemen will always remain a dark and deplorable stain upon his legacy.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by columnists and contributors are the author’s alone. They do not inherently or expressly reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of our publication.