NEWS 1130 (VANCOUVER) — Facing backlash for not pulling out of an arms deal with Saudi Arabia, one year after that country was accused of murdering New York Times journalist Jamal Khashoggi, Canada’s Foreign Affairs Minister says her government has made it harder to sell weapons to countries with a history of human rights violations.
“The joining of the Arms Trade Treaty is an important new element which we also need to review carefully and we’re going to do it right,” says Chrystia Freeland.
However, the $15-billion deal is still in place and has Amnesty International, Oxfam and Save the Children pressuring the Liberals to cancel it, and has inspired some Canadians to protest at events held by the Foreign Minister and Prime Minister, calling them “warmongers.”
“It is something that I’m very focused on, maybe, in part, because of my own past as a journalist,” says Freeland.
“The horrific murder of Jamal Khashoggi is something that cannot be brushed under the carpet.”
Harder to export under treaty
U.N. special rapporteur, Agnes Callamard, issued a report in June that concluded Khashoggi was “the victim of a premeditated extrajudicial execution, for which the State of Saudi Arabia is responsible.”
Khashoggi was attacked at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October, 2, 2018, his body dismembered.
Now that Canada has joined the U.N.’s Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) it is supposed to be harder to export weapons to countries like Saudi Arabia, which has been accused of unlawfully attacking civilians in Yemen.
“We have introduced tougher criteria concerning human rights violations, including violations of women’s rights, when it comes to arms exports from Canada.,” says Freeland.
Canada officially joined the ATT on Sept. 17 and enacted Bill C-47 in order to come into compliance with it.
Meanwhile, Canadians have been waiting for an update on an inquiry launched by the Liberals into the sale of more than 700 light armoured vehicles to Saudi Arabia from General Dynamics Land Systems-Canada, in London, Ont.
Freeland says that’s not expected anytime soon because the joining of the ATT has made that inquiry all the more complicated.
“This is a big change,” she says, defending the delay when asked if the report would be released before the federal election on Oct. 21.
Come critics have accused the government of not wanting to cut the deal before the election as it would cost thousands of jobs and likely not sit well during a campaign.
Political and business leaders in London have said that region could not sustain the cancellation of the arms deal and worry it would make the General Motors shutdowns look like “small potatoes.”