While I continue to have a guarded optimism about our new government, there are troubling signs that suggest that it has some conspicuous blind spots. Not only are the Trudeau Liberals showing every sign of carrying through with the very contentious Saudi arms deal, but it appears now they are expanding their Middle East customer base.
The Canadian government is busy promoting Canada’s defence industry in Kuwait even as a United Nations report accuses a Saudi-led coalition, which includes Kuwait, of “widespread and systematic” bombing of civilians in Yemen.Essentially embroiled in a civil war between the Houthi and the elected government, Yemen has become part of a regional power struggle between Shia-ruled Iran and Sunni-ruled Saudi Arabia, which shares a long border with Yemen. Unfortunately, that power struggle is costing many, many civilian lives.
A leaked UN panel report last week attributed 60 per cent, or 2,682, civilian deaths and injuries in the Yemen conflict to air-launched explosive weapons and said the Saudi-led coalition’s actions are a “grave violation of the principles of distinction, proportionality and precaution” and violate international law.Like many countries in the Middle East, Kuwait has a sorry human-rights record:
Targets in Yemen, the UN report found, have included refugee camps; weddings; civilian vehicles, such as buses; homes; medical facilities; schools; mosques; factories and civilian infrastructure.
According to Amnesty International, even peaceful criticism of Islam and the emir, the ruling head of state, remains criminalized. The rights watchdog says human-rights activists and political reformers are among those targeted for arrest, detention and prosecution. Authorities have prosecuted and imprisoned critics who express dissent through social media and they have curtailed the right to public assembly, Amnesty says.Although sales to Kuwait at this point seem to be limited to a flight simulator, the problem is Canada's openness to other military sales to the country. The head of the business Council of Canada, John Manley,
cautioned that blocking trade with foreign countries is a decision that should not be made lightly.For its part, the Trudeau government is pleading both ignorance (the Foreign Affairs depart claims not to have read the UN report) and a historical relationship with Kuwait:
“It’s grounds to have a conversation,” he said of the UN report, adding, however, that “you’re not going to get the next deal if you can’t be relied upon.”
... department of Global Affairs spokeswoman Rachna Mishra said, “Kuwait has been a strategic partner for Canada in the Middle East for over 50 years, and we value our close relationship with them.”So there we have it: a bit of obfuscation, some corporate influence/pressure and a vague departmental justification - not exactly a recipe to inspire confidence in our new government.