Don’t supply terror tools to tyrants
THE SPECTATOR’S VIEW
When Justin Trudeau’s Liberals were elected, they inherited an odious legacy: a 2014 deal to sell armed military vehicles to Saudi Arabia. The deal, worth $15 billion, rankled many because it meant Canada would become a major arms supplier to a regime that has a record of brutalizing its own citizens in the name of quelling dissent.
Trudeau acknowledged he didn’t like the deal, but he felt compelled to honour it for the sake of preserving Canada’s reputation as a reliable business partner. That didn’t satisfy the most strident critics, but many people could at least see the logic in his rationale.
However, all through that controversy, there was a hard stop. Reasonable people, and the government, could tolerate the deal-with-the-devil provided we could be guaranteed the Saudis wouldn’t turn the armed might against their own citizens.
Now, credible media reports from the region claim Saudi Arabia has deployed Canadian combat hardware against civilians. There are photographs showing a vehicle that looks exactly like the Canadian product, called an ‘Armoured Gurkha.’ Military experts, including a retired and anonymous Canadian general, have verified the claim.
The company that makes the Gurkha says it can’t comment. The government is aware and investigating. The Globe and Mail reported a statement from the office of Minister of Foreign Affairs Chrystia Freeland which says: “If it is found that Canadian exports have been used to commit serious violations of human rights, the minister will take action.” It also says: “The end use and end user of exports, as well as regional stability and human rights, are essential considerations in the authorization of permits for the export of military goods from Canada.”
If these reports are true, the worst fears of peace advocates and others critical of such deals will be realized. Canada will again be supplying lethal military equipment to be used against civilians.
Those advocates, as well as opposition parties, are already calling on the government to halt further exports. Obviously, the government won’t act on media reports alone, so if a moratorium is necessary it won’t happen overnight. But it shouldn’t take months, either. And the government had better not rag the puck on this. If the reports are true, the government needs to stop further shipments, kill the deal and tell Canadians in no uncertain terms it has done so and will not support new deals that carry the same risk.
Justin Trudeau was elected on wave of optimism and idealism that looks naïve in hindsight. Trudeau can restore some bruised credibility by doing the right thing in this case. We may not be able to stop tyrannical foreign governments from slaughtering their own people, but we don’t have to supply the bullets.