- Canada's announcement marks a shift in the policy of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
- Foreign Minister François-Philippe Champagne said in a statement that "significant improvements" were made to the contract, signed in 2014.
- Cesar Jaramillo, executive director of Canadian peace research institute, Project Ploughshares, blasted the deal.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is responding to economic pressures at the expense of what it has previously claimed about human rights. In what appears to be fears of penalties, and billions of dollars in fines, Canada is lifting a freeze with Saudi Arabia to sell light armored vehicles (LAVs).
Despite its preoccupation with confronting the Coronavirus, and reducing the number of deaths and infections on its soil, the Canadian government announced that it had renegotiated the terms of a contract worth $14 billion ($10 billion), concluded with Riyadh years ago, to sell light armored vehicles. It is a step that paves the way forward in implementing this frozen deal since the end of 2018.
Canada’s announcement marks a shift in the policy of Justin Trudeau, who announced two years ago that he is looking for ways to allow his country to evade the completion of the controversial deal, as he described it.
In a related context, Foreign Minister François-Philippe Champagne said in a statement that “significant improvements” were made to the contract, signed in 2014. Canada would sell Saudi Arabia light armored vehicles, manufactured in Canada by General Dynamic Land Systems Canada, which is affiliated to the American General Dynamics group.
In his statement, the minister added, “canceling this contract, which amounted to 14 billion Canadian dollars,” could have resulted in “billions of dollars in sanctions against the Canadian government,” and “threatening the jobs of thousands of Canadians.” He explained that thanks to these “improvements,” Canada will no longer have to pay fines if it delays in issuing “future export permits,” or refuses to issue these permits due to violations of arms use guarantees.
Champaign said that weapons “cannot be exported if there is a significant risk that they will be used to commit or facilitate serious violations of international humanitarian law, or international human rights law, or serious gender-based violence.”
He added, “after completing the review of export permits to the Kingdom Saudi Arabia conducted by officials from the Department of Global Affairs, including those related to this transaction, we have now started reviewing permit requests on a case-by-case basis to ensure that they are in compliance with the above-mentioned legal requirements.”
The freezing of the deal came against the background of tension between the two countries. Canada has accused Saudi Arabia of human rights abuses, and the Trudeau government has faced pressure from human rights groups. Specifically, they warn of the possibility of using these armored vehicles against civilians in Yemen.
In addition to these two reasons, the killing of the Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in a consulate also played a role. Saudi Arabia rejected accusations of its involvement, and observers see that it is political auctions from Canada that have now all abandoned them, for fear of a penalty of billions of dollars.
Cesar Jaramillo, executive director of Canadian peace research institute, Project Ploughshares, said:
“Canada has given greater credence to Saudi officials than to authoritative human rights organisations; it has whitewashed violent security crackdowns by the Saudi regime involving Canadian equipment, in which scores of civilians have been killed; it has dismissed or ignored highly credible links between the state of Saudi Arabia and the assassination of Jamal Khashoggi.”