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NGOs Amnesty International and Project Ploughshares accused Ottawa of “willful blindness” and breaking arms trade laws in its multibillion-dollar weapons and equipment exports to Saudi Arabia – despite evidence of their “misuse.”

A new report by the rights groups points to “persuasive evidence” to show that Canadian arms transfers – including light armored vehicles (LAVs) and high-powered sniper rifles – are being “diverted for use” in the Saudi-led coalition’s war in Yemen.

This has “exacerbated the armed conflict” that has been raging in Yemen since 2015, states the report, which accuses the Trudeau government of “misinterpret(ing) or ignor(ing)” key conditions of the 2014 Arms Trade Treaty (ATT). Canada signed the treaty – which regulates global arms trade – in 2019.

Besides “undermining peace and security,” it adds, there is an “overriding risk” that these weapons could facilitate “gender-based violence, forced displacement, and direct attacks on civilian objects.”

In April 2020, Ottawa lifted a limited freeze on arms exports to Riyadh and finalized a Can$15 billion (US$12 billion) contract to sell LAVs to Saudi forces. The embargo had been imposed in the wake of prominent Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s murder in 2018.

That deal came after a government exports review concluded that there was “no substantial risk” of these military goods being “used to commit or facilitate violations of international human rights law, international humanitarian law, or gender-based violence.”

However, the new report released on Wednesday claims that the official review was “fundamentally flawed.”

“Contrary to what the federal government has said, Canada continues to ignore its international obligations to the ATT,” Cesar Jaramillo, executive director of Project Ploughshares, said, adding that the government review “cherry-picks through evidence to paint a picture of a weapons deal that is fully compliant with international law.”

There are very clear conditions in the ATT under which exports can not and should not be made. Those conditions have already been met repeatedly. There is a bit of a willful blindness in [Canada’s] government to Saudi misbehavior and misuse of exports, which is no secret.

Although the billion-dollar LAV deal had been inked in 2014, during former Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s tenure, it was only finally green-lit last year after renegotiation.

Then-Foreign Minister Francois-Phillippe Champagne touted “significant improvements” to the contract that would create thousands of jobs at the Canadian subsidiary of US firm General Dynamics Corp, which makes the vehicles.

Also on rt.com
FILE PHOTO: Saudi soldiers watch as a Saudi military cargo plane lands in Marib, Yemen © REUTERS/Faisal Al Nasser
Canadian rights groups press Trudeau to halt record-breaking arms sales to Saudi Arabia over Yemen war

The controversial deal has continued to draw criticism over the years from rights groups – with the new report calling on the Trudeau government to “immediately revoke existing arms export permits to KSA and suspend the issuance of new ones.”

In response, a Canadian Foreign Ministry spokesperson claimed the country “has one of the strongest export controls systems in the world, and respect for human rights is enshrined in our export controls legislation,” and that permits to Saudi Arabia are “being reviewed on a case-by-case basis.”

The spokesperson told Al Jazeera that these permits are not issued automatically, and any application for a potential deal posing “a substantial risk of human rights violations will be denied.”

Last year, Canadian arms sales to Saudi Arabia exceeded Can$1.3 billion (US$1 billion) – second only to the US. Some Can$74 million was reportedly spent on explosives.

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NGOs Amnesty International and Project Ploughshares accused Ottawa of “willful blindness” and breaking arms trade laws in its multibillion-dollar weapons and equipment exports to Saudi Arabia – despite evidence of their “misuse.”

A new report by the rights groups points to “persuasive evidence” to show that Canadian arms transfers – including light armored vehicles (LAVs) and high-powered sniper rifles – are being “diverted for use” in the Saudi-led coalition’s war in Yemen.

This has “exacerbated the armed conflict” that has been raging in Yemen since 2015, states the report, which accuses the Trudeau government of “misinterpret(ing) or ignor(ing)” key conditions of the 2014 Arms Trade Treaty (ATT). Canada signed the treaty – which regulates global arms trade – in 2019.

Besides “undermining peace and security,” it adds, there is an “overriding risk” that these weapons could facilitate “gender-based violence, forced displacement, and direct attacks on civilian objects.”

In April 2020, Ottawa lifted a limited freeze on arms exports to Riyadh and finalized a Can$15 billion (US$12 billion) contract to sell LAVs to Saudi forces. The embargo had been imposed in the wake of prominent Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s murder in 2018.

That deal came after a government exports review concluded that there was “no substantial risk” of these military goods being “used to commit or facilitate violations of international human rights law, international humanitarian law, or gender-based violence.”

However, the new report released on Wednesday claims that the official review was “fundamentally flawed.”

“Contrary to what the federal government has said, Canada continues to ignore its international obligations to the ATT,” Cesar Jaramillo, executive director of Project Ploughshares, said, adding that the government review “cherry-picks through evidence to paint a picture of a weapons deal that is fully compliant with international law.”

There are very clear conditions in the ATT under which exports can not and should not be made. Those conditions have already been met repeatedly. There is a bit of a willful blindness in [Canada’s] government to Saudi misbehavior and misuse of exports, which is no secret.

Although the billion-dollar LAV deal had been inked in 2014, during former Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s tenure, it was only finally green-lit last year after renegotiation.

Then-Foreign Minister Francois-Phillippe Champagne touted “significant improvements” to the contract that would create thousands of jobs at the Canadian subsidiary of US firm General Dynamics Corp, which makes the vehicles.

Also on rt.com
FILE PHOTO: Saudi soldiers watch as a Saudi military cargo plane lands in Marib, Yemen © REUTERS/Faisal Al Nasser
Canadian rights groups press Trudeau to halt record-breaking arms sales to Saudi Arabia over Yemen war

The controversial deal has continued to draw criticism over the years from rights groups – with the new report calling on the Trudeau government to “immediately revoke existing arms export permits to KSA and suspend the issuance of new ones.”

In response, a Canadian Foreign Ministry spokesperson claimed the country “has one of the strongest export controls systems in the world, and respect for human rights is enshrined in our export controls legislation,” and that permits to Saudi Arabia are “being reviewed on a case-by-case basis.”

The spokesperson told Al Jazeera that these permits are not issued automatically, and any application for a potential deal posing “a substantial risk of human rights violations will be denied.”

Last year, Canadian arms sales to Saudi Arabia exceeded Can$1.3 billion (US$1 billion) – second only to the US. Some Can$74 million was reportedly spent on explosives.

If you like this story, share it with a friend!

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