Elizabeth May Asks: Are Secretive Arms Deals a New Way of Doing Business in Canada?

OTTAWA – Elizabeth May, Leader of the Green Party of Canada and Member of Parliament for Saanich – Gulf Islands, said the secrecy involved in the sale of armoured vehicles to Saudi Arabia could contribute to human rights violations against the people of Saudi Arabia.

“A key assurance that the Canadian government must receive from any country in deals involving the sale of arms is that they will not be used against its own citizens,” Ms. May said. “I am greatly concerned that the Harper Conservatives have refused to say if they have received assurances from the Saudi government, as Canada could become an active participant in human rights abuses just to appease commercial interests.”

In 2014, the Government of Canada announced that General Dynamics Land Systems Canada had entered into a $15 billion contract with Saudi Arabia.

Federal export controls forbids the sale of arms to any country with a ‘persistent record of serious violations against the human rights of their citizens.’ However, a government spokesperson refused to comment on specific details including whether the agreement complied with the human rights export control, citing a confidentiality clause contained within the agreement with Saudi Arabia.

“Arming one of the richest and least democratic countries on Earth is dubious to say the least,” Bruce Hyer, Deputy Leader of the Green Party of Canada and Member of Parliament for Thunder Bay – Superior North, added. “In fact, arming any of the countries on any side involved in a war that has continued for over 2000 years is a highly foolish foreign, military, and economic policy.”

“We must enshrine transparency and accountability in our trade deals, especially in those with authoritarian regimes known for brutally repressing their civilian populations,” Ms. May concluded. “Stephen Harper refused to sign the United Nations Arms Trade Treaty in 2013 on the convenient premise of limiting domestic gun rights, but this deal shows why he really did not ratify the Treaty. I believe that ignoring or withdrawing from international treaties to pursue a reckless economic vision is Harper’s real Economic Action Plan.”