AFP in Ottawa
Wednesday 13 April 2016 23.12 BST
The Liberals’ claim they could not have cancelled the deal has been hotly disputed
Canada’s Liberal government has refused to back down in the face of growing criticism for having approved arms sales to Saudi Arabia that could help it wage war in Yemen.
A previous Conservative administration announced the US$12bn sale of light armoured vehicles in February 2014.
However, the Conservatives are now raising the alarm over the arms sale – believed to be the largest in Canadian history – while the New Democratic Party (NDP) accused the Liberals of misleading Canadians.
The Liberals have refused to cancel the sale since coming to power in November, saying it was a “done deal” that could not be broken off without possibly incurring significant penalties and job losses.
But documents released this week by the justice department in response to a lawsuit seeking to block the deal showed foreign minister Stéphane Dion signed crucial export permits only last Friday.
Canadian media published excerpts saying Dion was advised that the sale of the vehicles equipped with machine guns and anti-tank weapons would help Riyadh in its efforts at “countering instability in Yemen” and fighting the Islamic State.
In a retort to critics, Dion said Wednesday that similar weapons systems sold to Saudi Arabia since 1993 had been used responsibly.
“The best and updated information indicates that Saudi Arabia has not misused the equipment to violate human rights,” he told reporters. “Nor has the equipment been used in a manner contrary to the strategic interests of Canada and its allies.”
But Conservative MP Tony Clement said Canada’s export controls do not require firm evidence of breaches, only an assessment of a risk of abuse.
“If the preponderance of the evidence is that it could be used against civilian populations… then the deal has to be off,” he said.
NDP leader Thomas Mulcair joined the fray saying: “The government lied to Canadians about who signed what when in the Saudi arms deal, and that is a very serious matter.”
Fighting in Yemen has killed almost 6,300 people, half of them civilians, since Saudi Arabia launched its controversial intervention against Iranian-backed Huthi rebels in March last year, the World Health Organisation has said.
See related post:
Canada in hot water over April approval of $11bn arms sale to Saudis despite int’l criticism
Published time: 14 Apr, 2016 10:10
“The Canadian government is under fire for secretly approving a deal, possibly the largest in the country’s history, to sell arms to Saudi Arabia, turning a deaf ear to concerns about how the weapons will be used.
The newly-revealed documents from Global Affairs Canada, obtained by CBC News, confirm that none other than Foreign Affairs Minister Stéphane Dion has signed off on export permits to ship $11 billion worth of the $15-billion vehicle sale to Riyadh, which is accused of gross human rights violations.”
“The Globe and Mail reported that Dion issued export permits for the bulk of the arms shipments as recently as last Friday. According to the newspaper, the department of Global Affairs Canada document (stamped ‘secret’ and obtained by a law university professor challenging the Saudi deal in court) shows Dion’s signature beside the words ‘I concur’ below the memo.
The permits reportedly cover light armored vehicles, spare parts and “associated weapon systems,” the memo signed by Dion says, adding that the fighting vehicles will be equipped with machine guns and anti-tank weapons.
The documents reportedly note how rare it is for a foreign affairs minister to personally sign off on export permits, with an exception made because the deal is so high profile and worth a fortune.
The documents also acknowledge concerns over Saudi Arabia’s human rights record, reportedly mentioning “the reported high number of executions, suppression of political opposition, the application of corporal punishment, suppression of freedom of expression, arbitrary arrest, ill-treatment of detainees, limitations of freedom of religion, discrimination against women and the mistreatment of migrant workers.”
Despite all this, Saudi Arabia appears to be Canada’s “key military ally supporting international efforts to counter ISIS [Islamic State or IS] in Iraq and Syria as well as countering instability in Yemen,” CBC has cited the document as saying.
“The acquisition of state-of-the-art armored vehicles will assist Saudi Arabia in these goals, which are consistent with Canada’s defense interests in the Middle East.”
The documents reportedly go on to say that Canada has “sold thousands of LAVs [light armored vehicles] to Saudi Arabia since the 1990s, and, to the best of the department’s knowledge, there have been no incidents where they have been used in the perpetration of human rights violations.”
The New Democratic Party (NDP) has accused the Liberals of deceiving Canadians.”
|Personnel||6 – 7 men|
|Dimensions and weight|
|Main gun||25-mm chain gun|
|Machine guns||1 x 7.62-mm, 1 x 5.56-mm|
|Main gun||500 rounds|
|Engine||Caterpillar 3126 diesel|
|Engine power||350 hp|
|Maximum road speed||100 km/h|
|Vertical step||0.6 m|