Canadian arms sales trump human rights

The Conservative government’s drive to expand Canada’s arms industry is drawing on diplomats, government trade representatives, and senior ministers to aid Canadian companies as they aggressively pursue military exports to unsavoury regimes.

Canada has never been among the major players in the international arms trade, “but the Canadian government is intent on changing that,” reports David Pugliese (“Top Gov’t Officials Join Canada’s Export Push,” Defense News, 22 February 2014),

and the behind-the-scenes maneuvering on a new Saudi Arabia-General Dynamics Land Systems-Canada (GDLS-C) deal is a blueprint for future endeavors, say government and industry officials.

Tim Page, the president of the Canadian Association of Defence and Security Industries, suggests that the new policy to vigorously promote arms exports signals a sea change in the attitude of the Canadian government.

The direction for this, he notes, is coming straight from Prime Minister Stephen Harper: “The [prime minister’s office] has said we will do all we can do to improve export success and that has now percolated down into the operational environment of the different departments,” Page said.

Lee Berthiaume reports (“Light Armoured Vehicle Deal With Saudi Arabia Raises Human Rights Concerns – General Dynamics Land Systems Canada Wins Award Estimated at $10 Billion,” Defence Watch, 14 February 2014) that the recent arms deal to sell light armoured vehicles (LAVs) to Saudi Arabia “will go a long way in bolstering the Harper government’s case for transforming Canada into a global arms dealer.”

Canada has sold LAVs, similar to those used by Canadian soldiers in Afghanistan, to Saudi Arabia in the past. More than 1,000 LAVs were delivered to the regime in the early 1990s, and 700 more were shipped in 2009.

This new arms deal, however, is being lauded as the largest arms export contract in Canadian history, potentially leading to 3,000 jobs in southern Ontario’s struggling manufacturing belt and other regions of the country. The enthusiastic government backing for the sale is consistent with the Conservative government’s goal to “offset job losses and factory closures in other segments of the manufacturing sector by turning Canada’s arms industry into a global player,” Berthiaume surmises.

However, while defence and export industry representatives extol the arms deal as “an Olympic win for Canada,” critics point to the increasingly “cavalier attitude” towards human rights abuses reflected in the new policy (Carl Meyer, “Canada’s divisive drive to sell more weapons abroad,” Embassy, 26 February 2014).

When pressed for a response to human rights concerns,

one minister absolved herself by saying she doesn’t have ‘any influence’ over military hardware after it’s sold, while an industry spokesperson declined to comment, and other senior sources refused to give their opinions on the record.

Jack Wilson, a professor at the Police and Public Safety Institute at Algonquin College, told Embassy,

If you look at women’s rights, they’re dead last… if you look in the area of freedom of religion, in Saudi Arabia not only are people who are not Muslims prevented from openly practising their faith, but even within the Muslim community, if you’re a Shia Muslim you can anticipate active discrimination. When it comes to people whose sexual orientation is not heterosexual, people do not dare proclaim that… when it comes to political dissent, it’s absolutely nonexistent.

The recent contract with the Saudis follows on the heels of an agreement reached last year that saw General Dynamics win a $65.3-million US contract to sell LAVs to the Colombian government, and coincides with government steps to ease restrictions on the sale of military weapons to India, Kuwait, Brazil, Chile, Peru, South Korea, and a host of other countries.

Photo Credit: DND

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7 Responses to “Canadian arms sales trump human rights”

  1. Peter StrawMarch 19, 2014 at 6:28 am #

    We are seeing the logical result of this government’s push for us to abandon our traditional Peacekeeping role. Now a “fait accompli”. This attitude is obvious by the simultaneous attack on Health Care, Education, Women’s issues and civil rights generally – our new push towards a corporate owned and governed world. The burgeoning arms trade should surprise no one. We need to turn out effectively for the next election.

  2. JocelynMarch 17, 2014 at 8:34 pm #

    Environmental destruction, unprecedented give-away of Canada’s precious resources for 33 years with zero environmental control requirements, fraud, embezzlement by his useless and ludicrously expensive senate, cuts of crucial funding such a mail delivery, school funding and veterans benefits, refusal to label GMOs and NOW war mongering. Canada truly has an out of control despot at the helm of what was once a diplomatic country representing peace and democracy!! He is not even the legal leader of our country since the Supreme Court did indeed decide that the previous election that has him in power was subject to electoral fraud. It is irrelevant WHO the guilty party was (although it is pretty easy to deduce who that was), the election results are now non-viable and he should be deposed immediately before he drives our once great and honourable country into the ground, while he fills his own private bank accounts. Let’s all stop him in his tracks before it is too late.

  3. M. IversonMarch 17, 2014 at 6:23 pm #

    Canada is surely moving from a peace keeping nation to a war mongering one. To wring our hands and say this must stop is a natural response. A more progressive response might be to suggest other forms of manufacture that would provide the employment needed. Anyone for green energy?

  4. dimitriMarch 17, 2014 at 3:09 pm #

    >Canadian arms sales trump human rights

    Well of course they do. We have seen the writing on the wall since long ago. Selling arms to any country is not humane, period. Over the years, the Canadian and American governments have become unbelievably friendly with the big corporations, which include the oil and arms industries. The public is relentlessly deluged with advertisements to buy much more than it needs. We Canadians have become quite indoctrinated to the pleasures of over consumption, so when a politician shouts more jobs, we say yes! We are quite aware of what this can mean to the environment and humanity, but too many of us turn the other way and ignore these deadly consequences. We come up with any number of excuses to justify our habits.

    People should examine their consuming habits and re-evaluate their priorities, because that is essentially what is behind the ever-expanding arms and tar sand industries in Canada.

    It’s the 100th anniversary of WWI. War is a profitable and deadly business.

    Unless YOU, YOUR FAMILY, and FRIENDS are directly affected by the war and tar sands industries, you are not likely to care too much. The big corps know this very well.

  5. Dorothy RandallMarch 17, 2014 at 2:18 pm #

    toby speaks my mind. This evil must by stopped.

  6. Fred BraileyMarch 17, 2014 at 12:16 pm #

    Leading up to that “War to end all wars”, Germany was gripped by ‘militarism run stark mad.’ Thus writes Hamida Ghafour in a Toronto Star e-book: “Spring 1914.” See an excellent excerpt in Sunday Star, March 16/14. History tends to repeat itself, as nations remain in the grip of militarism’s delusions. From arms merchant to war maker; from push to shove, ’tis but a few short steps to active engagement in deadly conflict.

  7. toby dentMarch 17, 2014 at 11:49 am #

    By proliferating weapons to governments with dubious human rights records, Harper is encouraging the use of violence against the citizens of this world. To profit from such evil endeavours is criminal. Stop Harper.