Canadian scolding of Saudi Arabia's human rights violations means nothing if they continue to sell them weapons

I'm a proud Canadian. I'm proud that my nation took a stand against the human rights practices in Saudi Arabia. Maybe you've read about it. Earlier this week, Canada's Minster of Foreign Affairs tweeted that our nation was less than impressed with Saudi Arabia's arrest of a woman's right activist. It's a sentiment echoed by Human Rights Watch and the United Nations.

From The Guardian:

On Wednesday, Human Rights Watch said Saudi Arabia had arrested the women's rights activists Samar Badawi and Nassima al-Sadah. The arrests were the latest in a government crackdown on activists, clerics and journalists. More than a dozen women's rights activists have been targeted since May.

Most of those arrested campaigned for the right to drive and an end to the country's male guardianship system, which requires women to obtain the consent of a male relative for major decisions.

On Friday, Canada said it was gravely concerned about the arrests, including Badawi's. Her brother Raif Badawi, a dissident blogger, has been imprisoned since 2012. His wife, Ensaf Haidar, lives in Canada and recently became a Canadian citizen.

As a result of Canada commenting on the Saudi treatment of these individuals, the Saudi Arabia kind of lost its shit: After tweeting that no one would be allowed to dictate how the nation administrated its people, the Saudi government called its ambassadors to Canada home and gave Canada's ambassador to the nation 24 hours to get out of Dodge. The Saudis followed up by ordering many of its citizens who were attending university at Canadian institutions home and messing with established trade deals it holds with Canada.

Canada's response to the Saudi temper tantrum came from our Foreign Affairs Minister, Chrystia Freeland, issued a statement saying, "Canada will always stand up for the protection of human rights, very much including women's rights, and freedom of expression around the world," she said. "Our government will never hesitate to promote these values and believes that this dialogue is critical to international diplomacy."

Cool, cool, cool.

Except for the fact that, as enraged as my nation purports to be about the rampant civil rights abuses in Saudi Arabia, we're apparently still very ok with the notion of selling them military-grade weaponry and vehicles.

The deal was initially struck by former Prime Minister Steven Harper's government, back in 2014, to the tune of 15 billion dollars. The contract, between General Dynamics Land Systems Canada and the Saudi government would see the company supply weaponized military land vehilcles (in this case, Light Armored Vehicles, or LAV IIIs,) to the Saudis over a 15-year period. According to The Globe & Mail, the LAVs would most likely ship overseas, armed with "two gun systems, including a medium-calibre weapon and the Cockerill CT-CV 105HP, which it advertises as a "high-pressure gun with an advanced autoloader to deliver high lethality at very light weight," one with the capacity to fire 105-mm shells and a heavy-armour-penetrating missile." This is a weapon system designed for military-grade murder. The sort of thing you want backing up your infantry (a LAV III is designed to carry troops into combat as well as laying down fire,) as they go into combat with a foreign aggressor.

But here's the thing: there's some pretty compelling evidence that the Saudi government has used Light Armoured Vehicles against its own civilian population.

As the Globe & Mail points out, the LAV featured in the video was not made in Canada. But one has to ask: if the nation was willing to use such means against its citizens in the past, what keeps them from doing so in the future, with Canadian-made arms?

I applaud my government's condemnation of a foreign power's human rights violations (despite the fact that Canada's treatment of its Indigenous Peoples still has a VERY long way to go). I appreciate that Canada has stood up to an oil-rich nation when so many of our allies have stayed silent on the topic of the rights abuses and arrests of activists that occur in Saudi Arabia on a routine basis.

But I'm having a hard time with our condemning a country's human rights practices while we continue to sell arms to them. It's duplicitous bullshit. Until such time that the contract is broken as part of an embargo against the nation, Foreign Affairs Minister Freeland's speech about Canada standing up against human rights violations will be nothing but a gust of hot air.

Image via Wikipedia Commons