Canadian human rights organizations oppose Saudi Arms Deal

saudi_army.jpgMontreal, April 27, 2016
 — Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East (CJPME) joined with over a dozen prominent Canadian human rights groups signing an open letter opposing the recent issuance of export permits for Canada’s $15 billion arms deal with Saudi Arabia.  The list of Canadian organizations signing the open letter is impressive, and includes Amnesty International Canada, the Canadian Council for International Cooperation, the Rideau Institute and others.  The organizations addressed the letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, and demanded that the government rescind the export permits for the arms deal, many of which have been recently signed.    

The organizations accuse the government of violating both the spirit and letter of Canada’s domestic export controls: controls intended to keep arms out of the hands of persistent human rights abusers like Saudi Arabia.  The letter begins by expressing the organizations’ profound concern for the arms deal and the government’s readiness to proceed, “despite the flagrant incompatibilities of this contract with the human rights safeguards of [Canadian] export controls.”  While the previous Conservative government initiated the deal with the Saudis for light armoured vehicles (LAVs), the current Liberal government has been responsible for signing the lion’s share of the export permits.  The organizations’ letter dismissed the contention of Foreign Affairs Minister Stéphane Dion’s that there was no “evidence” that Saudi Arabia might use the vehicles against civilians.  The letter pointed out that the threshold established by Canada’s export controls is one of “reasonable risk,” and that there is every indication that arms sold to Saudi Arabia could very likely be used against civilians. 

“While the ‘economic benefits’ to Canada of proceeding with the deal are clear, such benefits are not meant to be considerations when determining the ‘reasonable risk’ of abuse of Canadian arms,” explained Thomas Woodley, President of CJPME.  CJPME points out that if economic benefit is the sole determinant of whether to proceed with an arms deal, Canada might as well annul its export control laws.  “If we abandon our principles the moment there’s an economic cost to upholding them, it doesn’t say much about Canada’s moral character,” asserted Woodley. 

The letter pointed out that Canada’s existing export controls were set up to prevent precisely the type of deal represented by the current arms deal with the Saudis.  Saudi Arabia has some of the most repressive laws and archaic practices of any country in the world.  A monarchy, political dissidents are regularly jailed and executed in Saudi Arabia.  In January, a report issued by a UN panel investigating the Saudi-led bombing campaign in Yemen documented “widespread and systematic” attacks on civilian targets in violation of international law.

About CJPME – Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East (CJPME) is a non-profit and secular organization bringing together men and women of all backgrounds who labour to see justice and peace take root again in the Middle East. Its mission is to empower decision-makers to view all sides with fairness and to promote the equitable and sustainable development of the region.

For more information, please contact CJPME at 438-380-5410
Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East

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