Wednesday, August 2, 2017

UPDATED: Will It Be All Talk And No Action?

There will always be those who see Justin Trudeau only through the public image he has so assiduously cultivated. Others, however, refuse to suspend their critical faculties despite the Prime Minister's fine hair, sunny rhetoric and public earnestness. They demand that his 'sunny ways' be met with the kinds of actions a leader with character and integrity takes in difficult situations.

The latest test for Mr. Trudeau comes with the apparent proof that Saudi Arabia is using the Canadian-made armoured vehicles we sold them against their own citizens.
For the first time, video footage and photos have surfaced on social media allegedly showing the Islamic kingdom using Canadian weaponized equipment against Saudi civilians – a development that spurred calls Friday for the Liberal government to halt defence exports to the oil-rich nation.
The Canadian government is now investigating, but it is a move I take little reassurance in, given that allegations of misuse of the vehicles have been around for quite some time.

I am reproducing the editorial in today's Hamilton Spectator, as it addresses the implications of this issue well:
When Justin Trudeau's Liberals were elected, they inherited an odious legacy: a 2014 deal to sell armed military vehicles to Saudi Arabia. The deal, worth $15 billion, rankled many because it meant Canada would become a major arms supplier to a regime that has a record of brutalizing its own citizens in the name of quelling dissent.

Trudeau acknowledged he didn't like the deal, but he felt compelled to honour it for the sake of preserving Canada's reputation as a reliable business partner. That didn't satisfy the most strident critics, but many people could at least see the logic in his rationale.

However, all through that controversy, there was a hard stop. Reasonable people, and the government, could tolerate the deal-with-the-devil provided we could be guaranteed the Saudis wouldn't turn the armed might against their own citizens.

Now, credible media reports from the region claim Saudi Arabia has deployed Canadian combat hardware against civilians. There are photographs showing a vehicle that looks exactly like the Canadian product, called an 'Armoured Gurkha.' Military experts, including a retired and anonymous Canadian general, have verified the claim.

The company that makes the Gurkha says it can't comment. The government is aware and investigating. The Globe and Mail reported a statement from the office of Minister of Foreign Affairs Chrystia Freeland which says: "If it is found that Canadian exports have been used to commit serious violations of human rights, the minister will take action." It also says: "The end use and end user of exports, as well as regional stability and human rights, are essential considerations in the authorization of permits for the export of military goods from Canada."

If these reports are true, the worst fears of peace advocates and others critical of such deals will be realized. Canada will again be supplying lethal military equipment to be used against civilians.

Those advocates, as well as opposition parties, are already calling on the government to halt further exports. Obviously, the government won't act on media reports alone, so if a moratorium is necessary it won't happen overnight. But it shouldn't take months, either. And the government had better not rag the puck on this. If the reports are true, the government needs to stop further shipments, kill the deal and tell Canadians in no uncertain terms it has done so and will not support new deals that carry the same risk.

Justin Trudeau was elected on wave of optimism and idealism that looks naïve in hindsight. Trudeau can restore some bruised credibility by doing the right thing in this case. We may not be able to stop tyrannical foreign governments from slaughtering their own people, but we don't have to supply the bullets.

Howard Elliott
Photo-ops are fine, but it is time that Mr. Trudeau start acting with resolve and integrity in this urgent matter.

UPDATE: Former federal Liberal cabinet minister Irwin Cotler says,
... Saudi Arabia’s apparent deployment of Canadian-made combat vehicles against Saudi citizens demonstrates why Canada should end all arms sales to the Islamic kingdom.

“I am not saying we shouldn’t be trading with Saudi Arabia. I’m not saying we shouldn’t be engaging with Saudi Arabia. I’m just saying we shouldn’t be selling any more arms to Saudi Arabia”.
You can read the full story here.


  1. .. this nasty reality is part of the vaunted Harper Legacy.. I recall his flunkie Ed Fast crowing that arms manufacturing & export would be key drivers of Canada's economy going forward. Obviously the huge Saudi deal typified typical Harper style bad economics, with shocking penalties for cancellation & strict secrecies emplaced. Now the Trudeau government can deal with the fallout & ugly aftermath.. of that 'legacy' (legacy - which is supposed to be a 'gift')

    Aside from those who benefit from such manufacture.. I would be amazed to hear what % of Canadians actually support arms manufacturing and export. Maybe Ezra Levant could comment, or Hon Peter Kent or Laureen Harper. We already know what Harper & Trudeau believe - that these armored weaponized military vehicles are simply transports or just jeeps. Wondrous horse twaddle!

    Meanwhile, what initiatives are underway to stimulate creation of tools and technology to feed the world, or filter toxic water.. yes yes.. we give away water to Nestle to pack in disposable plastic bottles, but we subsidize foreign entities to come here, frack for gas or gouge out the tar sands.. and poison our water, obliterate species and habitat. Harper ensured that via ripping up environmental protections, defunding biologists and science as requested by Jim Flaherty's demanding clients & political donors at his annual 'retreat'

    Imagine what Justin Trudeau could accomplish by putting the brakes on this military arms manufacturing madness & enforcing a vision or focus on feeding people and ensuring clean water and clean air. And if Donald Trump wants to toxify the Great Lakes he should be bluntly told to go F himself and that Canada will look after & protect those bodies of water.

    Elected servants in Canada have lost their way, become blinded via mindless partisanship, whipped caucuses, endless political polls, been captured by the forces of neoliberalism.. sheltered by corrupted mainstream media..

    selling all of us out in the process seems the new politik..
    pissing on our leg.. and telling us its raining..

    1. We clearly live in a fractured political world that suggests all things are possible, Sal, (eg. pipelines AND climate change abatement) something people should be smart enough to see for the lie it is.

  2. We knew from a previous sale of LAV fighting vehicles that Saudi Arabia is perfectly willing to use them against civilians. Some of those earlier batch were photographed rolling over the causeway and into Bahrain when the Saudi Army was sent in to crush pro-democracy demonstrations.

    Trudeau and Dion would have had this history at their fingertips when the LAV contract came up after the Liberals took power. They had a chance to do the right thing. They chose to do the politically expedient thing. That set the tone for every tough decision Trudeau has faced ever since.

    1. And thus I have little faith when I read that Freeland is very concerned, will look into this, and take appropriate action, Mound. Talk is cheap. and unfortunately the Liberals are increasingly convinced that words without action can carry the day.