The Liberal government has quietly approved the Saudi arms deal and given the permit for Canada to export $15 billion in light armoured vehicles to Saudi Arabia. The lucrative contract can create a large number of jobs in Canada, bringing great economic benefits in Canada. Foreign Affairs Minister Stéphane Dion says it is in the country’s interests to go ahead with the deal.
But Saudi is a country with dismal human rights records. It is ranked by the Freedom House as “among the worst of the worst” on human rights. Recently, Saudi Arabia’s violent efforts in the war in Yemen have been devastating, with more than 6,000 people already dead. In 2011, Saudi troops — with armoured vehicles — were sent to neighbouring Bahrain to crush the popular protests.
The mass murder committed by the government by using military weapons – including armoured vehicles is the most horrific and hideous crime. In history, such crimes have never been condoned by the Western society.
On June 4th 1989, the Chinese government sent troops and armoured vehicles to crackdown on a large scale of student protests in Tiananmen Square. According to internal Communist party files released in 2001, 2,000 soldiers from the 38th army, together with 42 armoured vehicles, were ordered to sweep across the square, at the time when 3000 students were in the square protesting.
A CNN video shows the most shocking and disturbing scene, where a man stood in front of a column of tanks to stop its advance. While the tank man’s whereabouts is unknown till this day, the armoured vehicles have remained to be the crucial evidence of Chinese government’s intention to kill civilian protestors.
After the June 4th Incident, the US president George H.W. Bush announced military sanctions against China – from suspension of military contacts and technology transfers to the cancellation of planned US-China military talks. The reaction gained widespread support from Western countries.
Canada must weigh the trade-offs between economic benefits and Saudi Arabia’s abysmal human-rights records. In four years after the bulk of the exports set to ship to Saudi Arabia, Canada would have no leverage over how the weapons will be used by Saudi regime. In fact, reports from the war suggest that Canadian-made vehicles are already being used by the Saudi army.
It is unacceptable for Canada with a reputation for its compassion and dedication for human rights, to supply arms to a country that uses military weapons to crackdown civilian protests. A country that killed innocent civilians deserves punitive actions from the international community.
Selling arms to a Saudi damages Canada’s global image and distorts Canadian values. In the wake of the June 4th Incident, a flood of Chinese people fled the country and sought refuge in Canada, a country they believed that respected and protected the human rights of innocent civilians.
Apparently, allowing economic profits to outweigh Canada’s moral obligations will send a chilling message to immigrants from a country with a record of human rights violations and abuse.
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