Rights groups ask Canada to stop its weapon sales to Saudi Arabia 

The Justin Trudeau-led government in Canada has repeatedly ignored similar calls in the past, claiming that “there is no serious risk” of its military equipment being used for human rights violations in Yemen 

August 12, 2021 by Peoples Dispatch
Canada arms sale
Justin Trudeau.

In a new report, human rights and anti-war groups Project Ploughshares and Amnesty International Canada have accused the Canadian government of violating international law by selling weapons to Saudi Arabia. They demanded that Canada stop selling weapons to Riyadh as they could be used in the war in Yemen in violation of international human rights. 

The report titled “No Credible Evidence: Canada’s Flawed Analysis of Arms Exports to Saudi Arabia” was published on Wednesday, August 11. 

According to the report, by continuing to sell arms to Saudi Arabia, the Canadian government led by prime minister Justin Trudeau is violating its international commitments under the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) of which it is a party since 2019. The report refutes the defense provided by the Trudeau government that arms sales to Saudi Arabia are consistent with Canada’s human rights obligations.

ATT is an international arms control treaty approved by the UN and signed and ratified by at least 110 countries. The treaty demands all its signatories to ensure that the weapons they sell are not used to commit human rights violations. 

The report mentions that in the last six years, there have been several instances where Saudi Arabia’s actions were found to be in gross violation of human rights by the UN and other agencies. 

The Saudi-led coalition has been waging a war in Yemen since 2015, in which at least 233,000 people have already died. The Saudi-led coalition has also blockaded the country, depriving it of essential food and medicine supplies and pushing millions of Yemenis towards starvation and malnutrition. It has carried airstrikes on civilian locations, killing hundreds.    

Canada is the second largest arms exporter to Saudi Arabia after the US. In 2020, it sold weapons worth USD 1.05 billion to Riyadh. Weapons sales to Saudi Arabia amount to 67% of Canada’s total arms sales in the world outside the US.

All the arms exporters to Saudi Arabia and its coalition partners, including the US and the UK, have been under pressure by human rights and anti-war groups to stop their arms sales ever since the war in Yemen began.   

Canada’s previous government led by Stephen Harper had signed a deal to supply Light Armoured Vehicles (LAVs) worth USD 12 billion to Saudi Arabia in 2014. Trudeau’s government has approved the deal and defended it. 

In 2020, Canada lifted the freeze on its weapons sales to Saudi Arabia which had been imposed post the assassination of Jamal Khashoggi in 2018, saying that “there is no substantial risk” that its weapons will be used for human rights violations in Yemen.