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Liberals reject increased scrutiny of arms exports

West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country MP Pamela Goldsmith-Jones defends weapons sales to Saudi Arabia

During the last federal election the Liberals promised “to better help those affected by war and violent conflict”.

But by May of this year, The Globe and Mail reported, “Canada is obliged to uphold its reputation for honouring business deals and therefore must sell $15-billion of armoured vehicles to Saudi Arabia, Justin Trudeau said when asked about video footage that shows the Saudis using similar machines against civilians in the Mideast country.”

Now the newspaper reports, “The Trudeau Liberals voted down a motion to give MPs a key role in scrutinizing foreign exports of Canadian military goods, saying this level of parliamentary oversight was unnecessary. The motion was in reaction to a deal to sell $15-billion in weaponized armoured vehicles to Saudi Arabia, a country known for human rights abuses.”

The NDP had proposed to establish a new House of Commons committee, similar to what British parliamentarians have, given Canadian arms exports have nearly doubled over the past decade.

Liberal MP Pamela Goldsmith-Jones argued, “[This] is unnecessary and would merely create additional excessive burdens on an already highly regulated and monitored industry. …Is the defence industry really something we wish to cut back on? While we welcome the member’s concerns for human rights, transparent processes and strong arms controls, we are disappointed by the disregard for tens of thousands of Canadians’ livelihoods.” She added that Saudi Arabia is a strategic partner “in preventing … chaos, lawlessness, atrocities and terrorist attacks.”

But CBC reporter Neil Macdonald has commented, “There is the little matter of how the Saudis treat their own citizens. They have a hideous record of torture, oppression, arbitrary arrest and mistreatment of detainees, suppression of speech and religion, and institutional misogyny. They execute women for sorcery. Homosexuality is a grave crime. This is a regime Canada wants to supply with arms and war-fighting vehicles?”

A Nanos Research poll conducted in July found that 73 per cent of Canadians had some degree of opposition to the sale of Canadian military goods to Saudi Arabia. That poll also found that nine in 10 Canadians ant the Trudeau government to provide information on whether or not it approved the export of an unspecified amount of “military items” to the military junta in Thailand. Foreign minister Stephane Dion says he cannot make public his decision because it would harm the commercial interests of the company or companies involved.

The theme of the Council of Canadians annual conference is ‘Toward a Healthy Economy for People and the Planet’. Board member Leo Broderick and organizer Harjap Grewal will be hosting a workshop at that conference titled ‘The Economics of War and Peace: Canada’s Changing Role’. We believe that a growing arms export industry is not part of a health economy. As the prime minister himself said when he launched his campaign for Canada to have a seat at the United Nations Security Council for a two year term beginning in 2021, “A fair and successful world is a peaceful world.”

For more on Groundswell 2016, please click here.