Trudeau’s Hypocrisy re: Saudi Arabia

Back in 2014, Canada’s Harper government negotiated a $15 billion deal with Saudi Arabia to provide them with more armoured vehicles and anti-tank weapons, ostensibly weapons that would be used to help them defend against ISIS or a possible Iranian incursion. Justin Trudeau decided to honour that deal last year, despite the Saudi Arabian government’s abysmal human rights record. They continue to oppress women and migrant workers, they have consistently failed to protect freedom of expression and actively suppress it, and their bombing campaign in Yemen has caused a massive humanitarian crisis. The Saudi government is perhaps one of the most fascist regimes in the world, even using armoured vehicles against Shia dissidents. Needless to say, it’s difficult to imagine the Saudis using Canadian-made armoured vehicles for purely innocent purposes.

According to Trudeau last year, by honouring a deal to export weapons to a brutal regime, we are keeping to our word, helping to guarantee the trust of other countries in future deals. But by providing Saudi Arabia with weapons, we are not keeping to our word to defend human rights across the world. “We must always endeavour to do better, and be better, in our ceaseless pursuit of equality for all,” Trudeau said in a speech on Human Rights Day last year, only months after export permits for Canadian weapons to Saudi Arabia were approved. By cancelling the arms deal, Canada would have been endeavouring to do better, and I fail to see how the international community would have lost trust in us with respect to trade deals. Concrete rules can be set. The government could say, broadly speaking, that if you openly misuse your weapons, e.g. by using them on civilian populations, we will not provide you with more.

We are not alone in failing to set rules like this. The US and UK have provided Saudi Arabia with cluster munitions, which have been used on Yemeni civilian population centres and have been banned by 119 countries under the 2008 Convention on Cluster Munitions. However, that does not provide moral cover for Canada to provide arms as well, and the Trudeau government promised Real Change™, branding itself as progressive, so it was especially hypocritical for Trudeau to honour the deal — and without even a compelling excuse.

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