Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Thursday March 31, 2016
Cancelling Saudi arms deal would have no effect on human rights: Dion
Foreign Affairs Minister Stéphane Dion is defending a controversial $15-billion arms deal with Saudi Arabia by saying cancelling it would be a futile gesture because another country would simply supply the combat vehicles to Riyadh instead.
“It would not have an effect on human rights in Saudi Arabia,” Mr. Dion predicted, if the Liberals were to scrap a 14-year lucrative contract to build fighting machines that will be equipped with machine guns or anti-tank weapons.
International censure of Saudi Arabia is on the increase as rights groups decry an erosion of human rights under the current leadership there. Only two weeks ago, the Dutch parliament voted to stop arms shipments to Saudi Arabia, and in February, the European Parliament passed a motion calling for the suspension of weapons sales to Riyadh.
Mr. Dion used a Monday speech on the Liberals’ foreign policy to mount a hard-nosed defence of what is Canada’s largest-ever manufacturing contract – a transaction that was brokered by Ottawa under the former Conservative government and will benefit defence contractor General Dynamics’ London, Ont., plant until 2028.
“Riyadh does not care if the equipment comes from a factory in Lima, Ohio or Sterling Heights, Mich., rather than one in London, Ont.,” Mr. Dion said, naming American cities where military suppliers such as General Dynamics have a presence.
More than 2,000 workers in Canada would lose their jobs if the government cancelled the deal, the minister predicted.
Louise Arbour, a former United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights who once sat on the Supreme Court of Canada, was in the audience for Mr. Dion’s speech, and she said the contention that some other country would just take over the contract is “the weakest argument” that could be made.
“This argument that if we don’t do it somebody else will do it I find, frankly, the least convincing,” she said. “It is not infused with moral, ethical values.”
She said there are better reasons to justify sticking with the Saudi deal and would like to see Mr. Dion “do a balancing of consequences,” such as reputational, financial, jobs and the impact of doing nothing at all, including “Canada being seen as validating a regime that is at odds with a lot of Canadian values.”
Ms. Arbour said she hopes the federal government applies more rigour to examining weapons export permits, as it has repeatedly promised. (Source: Globe & Mail)
Posted alongside a related article on iPolitics.