Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Editorial Exchange: Don't Sell Heavy Weapons to Saudis

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Editorial Exchange: Don't Sell Heavy Weapons to Saudis

Article excerpt

Editorial Exchange: Don't sell heavy weapons to Saudis

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An editorial from the Winnipeg Free Press, published Jan. 11:

Justin Trudeau's Liberal government has looked pretty amateur in its handling of the controversy over the sale of armoured fighting vehicles to Saudi Arabia.

First, the prime minister said the sale was only for jeeps, then the government said the deal was a private transaction between a Canadian manufacturer and a foreign government.

And on Monday, Foreign Affairs Minister Stephane Dion promised to release a portion of the government's top-secret assessment of the state of human rights in Saudi Arabia, which presumably is intended to provide some sort of cover for the sale.

Under Canadian law, military exports are banned to countries that might use those weapons against their own people.

Since the Saudis' favourite weapon for dealing with jailed dissidents is the sword, perhaps the armoured vehicles aren't a human rights problem in the government's eyes.

Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and other groups have regularly named Saudi Arabia as one of the world's worst violators of human rights.

Canada and other western democracies have routinely sold weapons to Saudi Arabia and other tyrannies over the decades, as well as trading with countries such as China.

The $15-billion deal for Canadian army vehicles, however, is one of the largest sales by a Canadian exporter. Some 3,000 manufacturing jobs across the country are at stake.

Historically, the sale of weapons to countries with dodgy human rights records has been justified on the grounds the country was an ally against a mutual foe, or a force for stability in a turbulent region.

Canada and Saudi Arabia, for example, share a mutual distrust of Iran. But even Israel and Saudi Arabia, which do not have diplomatic relations, have found it mutually beneficial over the years to support one another in various ways. …

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