Canada’s sale of more than 900 armored “heavy assault” vehicles “blatantly contradictory”? Backgrounder from April 2018.
Canada’s dual role in Yemen: Arms exports to Saudi coalition dwarf aid sent to war-torn country
Brendan Kennedy and Michelle, Toronto Star, April 30, 2018
“It’s a bit like helping pay for somebody’s crutches after you’ve helped break their legs,” said Cesar Jaramillo, executive director of Project Ploughshares, a research and advocacy organization that studies Canada’s arms trade.
Jaramillo calls Canada’s position “blatantly contradictory,” saying the government can’t claim to be a champion of human rights while arming the world’s worst offenders. “The problem is Canada also wants the sweet multibillion-dollar deals, so it cuts corners on human rights.”
The Canadian government is the seller in some of these transactions. In others, they broker and approve deals for Canadian companies. Government officials could not say whether weapons exported from Canada have been used in Yemen.
Cancelling these multibillion-dollar deals would mean losing jobs. A $14.8-billion sale of Canadian-made armoured combat vehicles to Saudi Arabia — negotiated by the Conservative government in 2014 but given final approval by the Liberals — will reportedly provide work for about 3,000 people for 14 years in southern Ontario, where manufacturer General Dynamics Land Systems–Canada is a major employer.
Canada’s arms trade in the Middle East goes beyond the Saudi deal. Since the beginning of the war in Yemen, which is now entering its fourth year, Canada has also made millions selling guided missiles to Bahrain, which has crushed political dissent at home while aiding Saudi efforts abroad, and has exported an assortment of weapons and military equipment to the United Arab Emirates, which human rights organizations have criticized for numerous abuses within its own borders and in Yemen.
“Canada remains deeply concerned by the conflict in Yemen,” a spokesperson for Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland wrote in a statement to the Star. He added the government pays “careful attention” to the potential for Canadian weapons to be used in the war, but he did not explain how or provide any specifics.
The Star calculated Canada’s arms exports since 2015 to all of the countries in the Saudi coalition involved in Yemen’s war, as disclosed in Global Affairs’ annual report on Canadian exports of military goods. The bulk of the trade is with Saudi Arabia, to which Canada sold more than $240 million worth of weapons and other military goods in 2015 and 2016 — mostly combat vehicles, but also guns, training gear, bombs, rockets or missiles, drones and unspecified chemical or biological agents, which could include riot control agents.
“Canadians need to better understand the fact that we are an arms-trading nation,” said Alex Neve, Canada’s secretary general for Amnesty International. Shephard, April 30, 2018
When Global Affairs Canada announced another aid package to war-torn Yemen in January, it boasted that Ottawa had given a total of $65 million to help ease what the United Nations has called “the worst man-made humanitarian crisis of our time.”
What Justin Trudeau’s government did not mention in its news release is that since 2015, Canada has also approved more than $284 million in exports of Canadian weapons and military goods to the countries bombing Yemen.