Open letter to PM on Saudi arms deal, update on gun control, and Happy IWD 2019!

On 5 March 2019 a large group of civil society organizations including the Rideau Institute released to the media and public the text of its latest Open Letter to the Prime Minister of Canada. It calls for a decision to be rendered in the matter of the government’s never-ending “review” of its export of armoured vehicles (LAVs) to Saudi Arabia.  The final paragraph reads:

Canadians have been waiting for answers for more than three months since you first indicated that your government is looking at this question. More crucially, the people of Yemen have been waiting for that answer, and an assurance that Canada is prepared to act decisively to avoid contributing to war crimes in their country, for those same agonizing three months. It is time, Prime Minister, to assure Canadians and Yemenis that Canadian-made LAVs will not be going to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

For the full text of the letter, click:  Open Letter re: Canada’s Export of Light Armoured Vehicles to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

The release of this letter coincided with a Reuters news story in the Globe and Mail reporting that, in the view of Saudi Arabia, the matter was already decided:

“Regarding the Canada arms deal, we see the Canadian government going ahead with the deal, so the statements are for domestic consumption,” Saudi Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Adel Jubeir told a news conference in Riyadh. [emphasis added]

But Global News reports that Foreign Affairs Minister Freeland’s press secretary, Adam Austen, in response to the Saudi minister’s remarks, stated that Canada is still reviewing export permits to Saudi Arabia and hasn’t decided on anything yet regarding the arms deal.

Compare these shameful delays by our government with recent actions by Germany, which originally suspended all arms exports to Saudi Arabia after that government was implicated in the brutal assassination of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Despite intense pressure from allies whose joint military projects with Germany have been affected, Germany has extended the ban to all parties involved in the conflict in Yemen. In the words of the German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas:

Not only will there not be any permits issued until the end of this month, but products with permits already granted will also not be delivered.

The minister said that the German government would evaluate the arms export situation with respect to developments in Yemen over the course of the month.

For the full article, see: Germany extends ban on arms exports to Saudi Arabia (DW.com, 6 March 2019).

We call on the Prime Minister of Canada to follow Germany’s lead and help play a potentially decisive role in convincing the Saudi-led coalition to cease fighting and instead to throw their full support behind the peace process. In other words, end Canadian arms exports to Saudi Arabia now.

Update on Bill C-71 and harassment by the Canadian gun lobby

In our 31 August 2018 blog post, we provided information on Bill C-71, legislation to introduce some long overdue, and rather modest, changes to the Criminal Code to remedy weaknesses in Canadian gun regulation enacted during the Stephen Harper government.  This bill is now before the Senate Standing Committee on National Security and Defence, where it faces tough opposition from five Conservative members and one “unaffiliated” member out of a total of 12 on the Senate Committee.

On a more positive note, there is also an ongoing review led by Border Security Minister Bill Blair on the advisability of a total ban on handguns and assault rifles.

“You should lead an examination of a full ban on handguns and assault weapons in Canada, while not impeding the lawful use of firearms by Canadians,” the mandate letter reads.

Against this backdrop of potential new government gun regulation, there is a  campaign underway by the Canadian gun lobby to silence Canadian physicians who see a clear connection between access to guns and the greater likelihood of gun-related accidents and deaths.

Canadian Doctors for Protection from Guns (CDPG) was formed in February to highlight the public health consequences of gun-related injuries and deaths, as well as advocate for a ban on handguns and assault weapons and for the passage of Bill C-71. Since then, the Canadian Coalition for Firearm Rights (CCFR), an organization that bills itself as the voice of Canadian gun owners and also lobbies politicians, has labelled the group “unethical and radical”, and provided step-by-step instructions on how its members can lodge complaints about these physicians with medical oversight bodies.

In the words of Dr. Najma Ahmed, a founding member of the CDPG and trauma surgeon at Toronto’s St. Michael’s Hospital:

It’s an underhanded, weak tactic that is intended to intimidate and scare off a physician…. It won’t work.

For the full article, see: Toronto trauma surgeon target of complaints by gun-rights advocacy group (Carly Weeks, Globeandmail.com, 7 March 2019).

For a strong argument in favour of tighter controls, see: We must criminalize gun possession in Canada  (Vahan Kololian, Globeandmail.com, 12 November 2018). And for more information on how to get involved in the battle for stricter Canadian gun laws, see: Coalition for Gun Control.

International Women’s Day 2019

We cannot do a blog post on March 8, 2019 without including a comment on International Women’s Day!

For a statement from Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland, see: Statement by Foreign Affairs Minister on International Women’s Day.  And in the words of UN Secretary-General António Guterres:

Let’s make sure women and girls can shape the policies, services and infrastructure that impact all our lives. And let’s support women and girls who are breaking down barriers to create a better world for everyone.

See also: International Women’s Day marked across the world (Caroline Davies, Guardian.com, 8 March 2019).

Photo credit: German Foreign Ministry (Aid to Yemen)

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