Canada must stop arming Saudi Arabia

Foreign policy is generally not an issue in elections in Canada, and this election is no exception. Canada’s role in the world has so far received little attention on the ground. However, as former MPs from four of Canada’s five major political parties, we agree on an urgent foreign policy issue that must transcend party lines: ending Canada’s arms exports. towards Saudi Arabia and to make this issue a priority for the next government, whatever its political stripe. […]

The bulk of Canadian arms exports to Saudi Arabia consist of light armored vehicles, or LAVs, manufactured by General Dynamics Land Systems-Canada in London, Ontario. In 2014, the Canadian government negotiated the sale of hundreds of LAVs to the Saudi National Guard. Estimated at $ 14 billion, this arms contract is the largest in Canadian history. Arms transfers to Saudi Arabia now represent an overwhelming majority of Canada’s total non-U.S. Military exports.

Saudi Arabia has a dire human rights record, both at home and abroad. Domestically, Saudi authorities crack down on dissidents, women’s rights activists and independent clerics. Internationally, Saudi Arabia has since 2015 led a coalition of states militarily involved in Yemen, where it seeks to support the government of President Hadi, engaged in an armed conflict with the Houthi rebel forces allegedly linked to Iran. .

Since this coalition began its intervention, it has been widely condemned for serious and repeated violations of international humanitarian law, including the deliberate targeting of civilians with weapons supplied by several of the country’s major arms exporters. world. The Houthis’ record is no better and certainly deserves to be condemned. But it is Saudi Arabia that Canada is arming.

Civilians killed

Saudi Arabia-led coalition airstrikes have been indiscriminate and disproportionate, killing thousands of civilians while destroying critical infrastructure including water facilities, farms, hospitals, factories and markets. In 2017, a coalition airstrike on a school bus killed 40 Yemeni children and injured dozens. A recent report by an independent Yemeni human rights organization revealed that the Saudi-led coalition may have committed the war crime of using starvation as a method.

A recent report by the United Nations Panel of Eminent Experts on Yemen named Canada, for the second year in a row, as one of the world powers helping to perpetuate the Yemeni conflict by continuing to supply arms to the led coalition. by Saudi Arabia. Ardi Imseis, Professor of Law at Queen’s University and a member of the Panel, said: “As long as the guns continue to flow, this war will only get worse. “

Arms Trade Treaty

September 17, 2021 also marked the second anniversary of Canada’s accession to the Arms Trade Treaty, a historic multilateral agreement that aims to regulate the international transfer of arms in order to reduce damage to civilians during wars. armed conflicts. As a State Party, Canada must ensure that Canadian weapons are not used to target such civilians. As a recent report from Amnesty International Canada and Project Plowshares showed, Canada continues to export armored vehicles in violation of these legal obligations to Saudi Arabia despite human rights violations committed. – and widely documented – by this country in the context of the conflict in Yemen.

After six years of war, Yemen is experiencing one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises. An estimated 20.1 million Yemenis are in need of humanitarian assistance, 16.2 million face acute food insecurity and more than 5 million are on the brink of famine. Yemen suffers from years of conflict and a blockade imposed by the Saudi-led coalition. […]

Canada has a role to play in bringing peace to Yemen as well as a legal obligation to comply with national and international export controls. Canada’s next government should follow the lead of several European countries and immediately suspend arms exports to Saudi Arabia, increase humanitarian assistance to Yemen and play a diplomatic role in ending this brutal conflict.

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