What’s this about a Saudi arms deal?
Confession: I like Justin Trudeau and the new Liberal government. Most of you who know me probably already knew as much. After nearly a decade of Canada being governed by a ruthless, vindictive and ideological PM, I was pleased when Trudeau got elected. I was happy when he chose a gender balanced cabinet, opened Canada’s doors to Syrian refugees, announced infrastructure spending and so on and so forth.
However, I cannot for the life of me understand why the new government is insistent on selling armoured vehicles to Saudi Arabia.
Paul, what the heck are you talking about?
For those of you who actually have interesting hobbies and don’t follow political news closely, the Canadian government is brokering a $15 billion dollar transaction with Saudi Arabia. We’re selling them “light armoured vehicles” equipped with some fairly heavy weaponry. They aren’t quite tanks, but they aren’t exactly pick-up trucks either. While the contract will create 3000 jobs over several years in Canada, one really should consider how the vehicles will be used upon arrival. Saudi Arabia is already using Canadian made LAV’s in a conflict with Yemen. You know, that country Chandler visited to escape Janice. Then there’s the issue of Saudi Arabia’s dismal human rights record.
Why does it matter?
I realize there are complicated geopolitics beyond my scope of understanding at play regarding Saudi Arabia. It’s mostly to do with oil. But there’s absolutely no logical reason for selling heavily armoured vehicles to a kingdom with a human rights record so utterly deplorable it makes Westeros look like it’s run by Mr. Rodgers. Saudi Arabia still executes people by beheading them. It’s a country where you can get sent to jail for 10 years with 2000 lashes for posting atheist tweets. Yes, lashes and beheadings. Suddenly the Westeros comparison isn’t so farfetched. This is just a tiny example of how atrocious the Saudi human rights record is.
Why’s the deal still happening?
The blame for this debacle of a deal isn’t entirely on Trudeau and company. The previous government lobbied hard to win the contract to sell these vehicles. Then along came Trudeau who announced during the campaign he’d sign a UN treaty to restrict the sale of weapons to countries with bad human rights records. This would be binding under international law. Yet his government refuses to cancel the deal.
Trudeau himself has mostly deferred the deal to Foreign Affairs Minister Stephane Dion. He just recently said the government flat out does not like the deal and disagrees with it, but it won’t attempt to stop the deal even though it could if it wanted to. Makes sense right? There’s concrete polling data to indicate that Canadians don’t support the deal, and some of Canada’s allies such as Britain and Germany have expressed unease at the deal. But our government still won’t budge.
Everything explained via metaphor
If you’re having trouble wrapping your head around all of this, the next two paragraphs explain everything in metaphoric form.
You’re part of a respected family of egg farmers. Your parents run the stall at the farmers market where your family sells its eggs. They tell you there’s a strange man who frequents the market only buying items so he can throw them at people, but they like to sell him eggs anyway. You decide you strongly dislike this person, and when you take over running the egg stall you’re going to agree to make it illegal for the stalls at the farmers market to sell items to this man.
Eventually your family’s chickens decide to stop laying eggs for your parents, so you brush your parents aside and take control of the business. This strange man keeps coming to your stall expecting you’ll continue to sell him eggs so he can continue throwing them at people. You and most of your farmers market friends condemn this person for constantly throwing things at people. However, your friends watch and shake their heads as you sell this customer egg after egg. All the while you’re telling your friends how you loathe this customer and regret having to sell them eggs.
Why should I care?
Well you don’t have to. Some people think we shouldn’t care about how the LAV’s are being used once they’re paid for and delivered because they’re creating Canadian jobs. And if that’s your opinion, A) you probably stopped reading a while ago, and B) that’s a perfectly reasonable opinion to have. But it seems a majority of Canadians don’t share that opinion on this particular issue.
It just doesn’t make sense to me for a government of any colour to champion human rights, yet sell combat vehicles to a country that will use them to violate human rights. Where’s the logic in that?