$10-billion arms deal with Saudi Arabia


The Harper government is celebrating a recent $10-billion deal to sell Canadian-built armoured vehicles to Saudi Arabia, a country routinely condemned for its human rights abuses.

The deal, announced last month by International Trade Minister Ed Fast at the London, Ontario plant of General Dynamics Land Systems (GDLS), was secured with the assistance of the Canadian Commercial Corporation, the federal government’s international contracting agency (Steven Chase & Richard Blackwell, “Ottawa touts sale of military vehicles to Saudi Arabia,” Globe and Mail, 14 February 2014).

Mr. Fast stated that the armoured vehicles, similar to the ones Canadian personnel used in Afghanistan, will be designed and manufactured in London, “which will become the epicentre of a cross-Canada supply chain directly benefiting more than 500 local Canadian firms.”

Neither the government nor GDLS has revealed the number of armoured vehicles that will be produced under the deal, but the total is likely to be in the thousands.

The Official Opposition NDP has voiced concern about exporting arms to a country with an abysmal human rights record.

NDP foreign affairs critic Paul Dewar warned that the vehicles could be used by Saudi Arabia to oppress democracy activists, as they were in Bahrain during the Arab Spring:

“Is this just open-for-business for whoever wants to buy arms from us?” he said. “I am concerned what these arms could be used for.” …

Mr. Dewar said he worries this deal is part of a ramp-up in arms exports by Canada and is unhappy that Ottawa has stopped issuing annual reports on where the country’s weapons sales are heading.

Photo credit: Canadian Army

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