Citizen Action Monitor

Effort to legally block Saudi arms deal is filed by University of Montreal law professor and students

Government should respect its own law. As well, the deal might result in breaching human rights in another country, says prof.

No 1621 Posted by fw, March 22, 2016

“Law professor Daniel Turp and his students say Canada is violating its own laws and policies that he says prohibit Ottawa from selling arms to countries with poor human rights records and without assurances the equipment won’t be used against civilians. Turp’s judicial review asks the court to revoke the export permits for the armoured vehicles. ‘It’s about the rule of law, it’s about legislation and guidelines and all kinds of other rules that should be respected by the Canadian government,’ said Turp, a former Bloc Quebecois MP who specializes in international and constitutional law.”Sidharta Banerjee, Canadian Press

The Saudi arms deal story just won’t go away. That may be because prime minister Trudeau can’t seem to come up with a credible explanation about why the deal can’t / won’t be cancelled. The explanation, when one is offered, keeps changing. For example, the December 18, 2015 response I got to my October 25, 2015 letter urging cancellation of the arms agreement was a non-response from his correspondence officer to the effect that —

“…your comments have been carefully reviewed. As the matter you have raised falls within the responsibilities of the Honourable Stéphane Dion, Minister of Foreign Affairs, I have taken the liberty of forwarding your message to him.

In a December 18, 2015 CBC news item, Trudeau is reported to have said, “the deal stands” period. No explanation is even offered from the PM who promised openness and transparency.

A couple of weeks ago, the CBC showed another clip in which the PM – if memory serves me right — referred to some government rule or policy that prevented him from cancelling the deal. I was unable to find that clip the next day in my search of the CBC website. And my follow-up email to the CBC asking for a link to the video has gone unanswered. Suspicious. Has the clip been deleted? And if so, why?

The latest explanation, cited in the repost below, is “that cancelling the contract would have weakened the credibility of the Canadian government.” Really? No policy was cited to support that claim. Moreover, are Canadians really supposed to believe that Canada’s credibility is on such shaky grounds that it could be seriously undermined by cancelling an arms deal with a country guilty of countless brutal human rights violations? Shouldn’t the PM be equally or, perhaps, more concerned about our moral credibility in the eyes of the world?

How does the PM reconcile his changing explanations with this news item? — “Campaigners are pressuring the British government to follow the lead of The Netherlands and ban the country’s arms exports to Saudi Arabia as the Gulf Kingdom continues to conduct air strikes on civilian populations in Yemen.”

Below is a repost of Banerjee’s brief report, along with my transcript of a video clip of the PM responding to a woman’s request to pledge no future deals of this kind. To read the original story and see the video clip, click on the following linked title.

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Saudi Arms Deal Sparks Lawsuit From Montreal Students, Ex-MP Professor by Sidhartha Banerjee, The Canadian Press / Huffington Post, March 22, 2016

MONTREAL — A group of Université de Montréal law students and their ex-MP professor filed a judicial review in Federal Court on Monday seeking to block the federal government’s controversial $15 billion Saudi arms deal.

Law professor Daniel Turp and his students say Canada is violating its own laws and policies that he says prohibit Ottawa from selling arms to countries with poor human rights records and without assurances the equipment won’t be used against civilians.

Turp’s judicial review asks the court to revoke the export permits for the armoured vehicles.

“It’s about the rule of law, it’s about legislation and guidelines and all kinds of other rules that should be respected by the Canadian government,” said Turp, a former Bloc Quebecois MP who specializes in international and constitutional law.

“Citizens like my myself and my students are concerned by the idea of having a government respect its own law … and also because the consequence might be breaching human rights in another country.”

The notice was formally filed Monday in Federal Court in Montreal and might be heard later this spring — in May or June.

The Liberals have faced criticism for refusing to cancel the contract given Saudi Arabia’s abysmal human rights record and its military intervention in Yemen.

Liberals pledge to honour deal

Foreign Affairs Minister Stephane Dion told the Senate last month that while the Liberal government doesn’t necessarily approve of the deal negotiated under the previous Conservative government, it will honour it.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau suggested in New York last week that cancelling the contract would have weakened the credibility of the Canadian government.

“The principle (that) … a change of government does not endanger everything that was previously signed is a very important one to respect,” Trudeau said at the United Nations last week.

While Canada won’t renege on the Conservative-era Saudi arms deal, Trudeau says his government will take a more rigorous and transparent approach to foreign arms sales in the future.

Turp and his students are being represented pro-bono by Montreal law firm Trudel-Johnston & L’Esperance.

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MY transcript of Accompanying Video Clip

In an accompanying HuffPost Canada video clip titled Justin Trudeau: The Global Town Hall, the PM responds to a question from the audience. Here’s a transcript of the exchange, including a very convoluted last sentence —

Sandra Currie, Vancouver — Canada is selling military equipment to Saudi Arabia, one of the worst countries in the world for human rights violations. I know you didn’t negotiate this deal, but will you pledge to prevent future agreements like this, with countries that have terrible human rights records?

PM — Thank you very much for the question. And there’s an important distinction within that question. This was a deal signed under a previous government. And one of the things about being a stable country able to engage and sign deals around the world is to be able to reassure the people with whom we sign the deal that if there’s a change in government, it’s not suddenly going to be ripped up. And there are so many deals involving Canadian companies and Canadian manufacturers and foreign countries and their manufacturers that it would be a terrible precedent to set, to go back on what is already a signed contract. But at the same time, what we pledged during the election campaign, what I’ve reiterated, is a commitment to openness, to transparency to demonstrating that we are living up to Canada’s responsibilities to not sell arms to countries that have a high risk of using them against civilian populations and demonstrate that we’re keeping Canadian law respected in the very important safeguards that we put around our sales to the world.

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This entry was posted on March 22, 2016 by in Uncategorized.
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