Trudeau still hasn’t given an update on the Saudi arms deal

Justin Trudeau still hasn’t updated Canadians on the multi-billion dollar arms deal with Saudi Arabia. Now, he faces pressure from numerous civil society groups to act.

Siddak Ahuja Montreal QC

Justin Trudeau still hasn’t updated Canadians on the multi-billion dollar arms deal with Saudi Arabia. Now, he faces pressure from numerous civil society groups to act.

Trudeau announced, just after Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi was murdered in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, that he would review the arms deal with the nation.

The review was deemed necessary especially considering numerous reports of human rights violations by the country in Yemen. The ongoing famine in Yemen is directly caused by Saudi Arabia’s indiscriminate bombings and blockades.

Trudeau promised he would review this arms deal originally signed under the Conservative-led Harper government.

According to the Canadian Press, organizations such as Amnesty, Oxfam, and others, sent a letter this week to Trudeau. They say the public has a right to know the status of the review, as more than nine months have passed since the government first announced their decision to do so.

“No update with respect to the progress of the review has been offered, bringing the sincerity of the effort into question,” said the letter.

“Canadians are entitled to know the outcome of the government review, and a clear answer with respect to your government’s position on the export of LAVs from Canada to Saudi Arabia.”

The Liberals have already managed to halt any new export permits to Saudi, and sanctioned 17 Saudi individuals.

However, these civil society groups believe that delaying the results of the arms sales review could be dangerous. Canada shipped 127 military vehicles to the monarchy last year.

In the past six months of 2019, government data show Canada has sold $1.2 billion worth of “tanks and other motorized armoured fighting vehicles (including parts)” to the kingdom.

Adam Austen, a spokesman for Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland, said in an email that “as we have said before, we are reviewing export permits to Saudi Arabia and no final decision has been made. While this review is ongoing, no new permits have been issued.”

While stopping the deal would be morally the correct thing to do in terms of human rights, it could risk the confidence of Canadian arms deals in the future, and potentially put jobs at risk.

Austen also argued the Trudeau government has taken steps to strengthen export controls with recently passed legislation. These export controls will “enshrine human rights into Canadian export laws” and allow Canada to accede to the United Nations Arms Trade Treaty.

“Bill C-47 creates a new legal requirement that the Canadian government must deny export permits if there is a substantial risk that the export would result in a serious violation of human rights, including serious acts of gender-based violence.”

Canada will become a practitioner of the Arms Trade Treaty on September 17th this year.


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