No 2211 Posted by fw, April 30, 2018
“When Global Affairs Canada announced another aid package to war-torn Yemen in January, it boasted that Ottawa had given a total of $65 million to help ease what the United Nations has called “the worst man-made humanitarian crisis of our time.” What Justin Trudeau’s government did not mention in its news release is that since 2015, Canada has also approved more than $284 million in exports of Canadian weapons and military goods to the countries bombing Yemen. ‘It’s a bit like helping pay for somebody’s crutches after you’ve helped break their legs,’ said Cesar Jaramillo, executive director of Project Ploughshares, a research and advocacy organization that studies Canada’s arms trade.” —Brendan Kennedy, Michelle Shephard, The Star
Ottawa claims to be a champion of human rights, while arming the world’s worst offenders. Liberal gov. can’t/won’t say whether weapons exported from Canada have been used in Yemen. Moreover, although the duplicitous Grits were quick to point the finger at the Harper gov. for negotiating the arms deal with the Saudis, media reports forced them to admit they gave final approval. A spokesperson for Chrystia Freeland’s Global Affairs department expressed “deep concern for the conflict in Yemen,” claiming “careful attention” is paid use of those weapons, he declined to explain details about the monitoring. An academic who follows Canada’s arms exports to the Middle East said he didn’t think Canadian officials did “much of anything” to monitor Canadian weapons after they’re sold. Although Ottawa’s investigation of a Globe and Mail report of Saudi use of Canadian-made arms found “no conclusive evidence,” the report has not been released. Despite Freeland’s can “do better” admission, Canada continues to keep secret its weapons’ sales to US, a loophole that means Ottawa has no control over where weapons manufactured here end up.
Below is a slightly abridged repost of The Star’s investigative report, with my added subheadings and text highlighting to facilitate browsing and selective reading. Alternatively, read the full report by clicking on the following linked title.
Ottawa’s humanitarian aid to Yemen paltry compared to value of arms’ exports to countries bombing Yemen
Canada has sent $65 million in humanitarian aid to help Yemenis suffering amid a brutal war. It has also exported $284 million worth of weapons and military goods to the countries bombing Yemen.
Ottawa boasts about aid package, but remains wilfully silent about Trudeau-approved arms deal
When Global Affairs Canada announced another aid package to war-torn Yemen in January, it boasted that Ottawa had given a total of $65 million to help ease what the United Nations has called “the worst man-made humanitarian crisis of our time.”
What Justin Trudeau’s government did not mention in its news release is that since 2015, Canada has also approved more than $284 million in exports of Canadian weapons and military goods to the countries bombing Yemen.
“It’s a bit like helping pay for somebody’s crutches after you’ve helped break their legs”
“It’s a bit like helping pay for somebody’s crutches after you’ve helped break their legs,” said Cesar Jaramillo, executive director of Project Ploughshares, a research and advocacy organization that studies Canada’s arms trade.
Ottawa claims to be champion of human rights, while arming the world’s worst offenders
Jaramillo calls Canada’s position “blatantly contradictory,” saying the government can’t claim to be a champion of human rights while arming the world’s worst offenders. “The problem is Canada also wants the sweet multibillion-dollar deals, so it cuts corners on human rights.”
Libs can’t/won’t say whether weapons exported from Canada have been used in Yemen
The Canadian government is the seller in some of these transactions. In others, they broker and approve deals for Canadian companies. Government officials could not say whether weapons exported from Canada have been used in Yemen.
Duplicitous Liberals blamed Conservatives for the deal, while not admitting that they gave final approval
Cancelling these multibillion-dollar deals would mean losing jobs. A $14.8-billion sale of Canadian-made armoured combat vehicles to Saudi Arabia — negotiated by the Conservative government in 2014 but given final approval by the Liberals — will reportedly provide work for about 3,000 people for 14 years in southern Ontario, where manufacturer General Dynamics Land Systems–Canada is a major employer.
Canada also made millions in Middle East arms sales to countries with record of human rights violations
Canada’s arms trade in the Middle East goes beyond the Saudi deal. Since the beginning of the war in Yemen, which is now entering its fourth year, Canada has also made millions selling guided missiles to Bahrain, which has crushed political dissent at home while aiding Saudi efforts abroad, and has exported an assortment of weapons and military equipment to the United Arab Emirates, which human rights organizations have criticized for numerous abuses within its own borders and in Yemen.
Freeland’s spokesperson expresses “deep concern”, claims government’s “paying attention,” but can’t/won’t say how
“Canada remains deeply concerned by the conflict in Yemen,” a spokesperson for Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland wrote in a statement to the Star. He added the government pays “careful attention” to the potential for Canadian weapons to be used in the war, but he did not explain how or provide any specifics.
Arms exports since 2015, more than $240 million
The Star calculated Canada’s arms exports since 2015 to all of the countries in the Saudi coalition involved in Yemen’s war, as disclosed in Global Affairs’ annual report on Canadian exports of military goods. The bulk of the trade is with Saudi Arabia, to which Canada sold more than $240 million worth of weapons and other military goods in 2015 and 2016 — mostly combat vehicles, but also guns, training gear, bombs, rockets or missiles, drones and unspecified chemical or biological agents, which could include riot control agents.
“Canadians need to better understand the fact that we are an arms-trading nation”
“Canadians need to better understand the fact that we are an arms-trading nation,” said Alex Neve, Canada’s secretary general for Amnesty International.
Ottawa’s reports of arms exports “incomplete”
The reports cover only exports in the first two years of the Saudi-led bombardment, because last year’s exports will not be disclosed until this summer. The numbers are also incomplete. They do not include Canadian weapons diverted to the Middle East through another country.
While EU countries have ended arms sales to the Saudis, Canada, US and UK remain open for business
The United States and United Kingdom are also arming Saudi Arabia and its coalition partners, but they, and Canada, are increasingly isolated in their position. The European Parliament passed a non-binding resolution in 2016 calling on all member states to enforce an arms embargo against Saudi Arabia for its role in Yemen. The Netherlands was first to take up the call. Finland and Norway have since stopped selling weapons to the United Arab Emirates. Earlier this year, Germany declared an end to arms sales to all parties involved in Yemen’s war.
Despite evidence of human rights violations, Trudeau gov. expresses “deep concern,” but won’t join the ban
Trudeau’s government has suggested no such ban, despite expressing “deep concern” over reports of Saudi abuses. Ottawa’s official position is that it will stop the export of military goods if there is a “reasonable risk” of human rights abuses. What that has meant, in practice, is that even when a country has a demonstrably poor record on human rights, unless there is definitive evidence Canadian weapons were used to commit human rights abuses, Canada is open to their business.
Instead of passively waiting for “proof”, Canada should be preventing possible weapons’ violations
Neve questions why the government needs proof of a “smoking tank” before taking action.
“People think Canada is only on the hook, Canada is only responsible, if something bad has happened,” he said. “Arms control is all about preventing it happening in the first place.”
Canada does not disclose weapons sales to US, a likely reseller to Middle East
The true tally of Canada’s arms sales to the Middle East is possibly much higher than the export statistics suggest. Canada does not disclose any sales to its largest buyer of military goods, the U.S., which account for at least half of Canada’s weapons exports. The U.S., in turn, sells nearly half of its weapons to countries in the Middle East, primarily Saudi Arabia. So it’s impossible to know how many Canadian weapons or weapon components, if any, the U.S. has sold or donated to the Saudi coalition. Meanwhile, an American army commander admitted last month to a U.S. Senate committee that they don’t know how their weapons are used in Yemen.
“Saudi selfies” appear to show, without doubt, Canadian arms being used by Saudis or Emirates in Yemen
Anthony Fenton, an academic who follows Canada’s arms exports to the Middle East, uses local reports and photos posted to social media to track the use of Canadian weapons in Yemen. Many of the images come from the military itself — what Fenton calls “Saudi selfies” — and appear to show Canadian equipment being used by the Saudis or Emirates on Yemen’s border or within its towns. Though they are difficult to verify, the sheer number of sightings posted by civilians or players on all sides of the conflict provide a damning body of evidence, according to Fenton.
“There is not a shred of doubt Canadian equipment is being used in Yemen,” he said. “We track this on a daily basis and there hasn’t been a week since this war began that there hasn’t been some sighting of Canadian goods being used.”
Freeland’s department declines to answer questions about how it monitors post-sale weapons’ usage
A Canadian manufacturer that wants to sell weapons to a foreign country other than the U.S. requires an export permit from Global Affairs Canada, which says it “strives to ensure” Canadian exports of weapons and other military goods “do not undermine peace, security or stability in any region of the world or within any country.” Government bureaucrats assess permits on a case-by-case basis and are supposed to block sales to countries whose governments have a “persistent record of serious violations of the human rights of their citizens, unless it can be demonstrated that there is no reasonable risk that the goods might be used against the civilian population.”
Freeland’s spokesperson said if the government had evidence a Canadian-exported weapon was being deployed other than for its “authorized end use,” Freeland would cancel future export permits associated with the sale. But how does Ottawa monitor weapons once they’re in the hands of another country? Global Affairs did not answer.
Fenton said he didn’t think Canadian officials did “much of anything” to monitor Canadian weapons after they’re sold. “What could they do? They’d have to have personnel embedded with the military with a notepad. The point is they shouldn’t be sold in the first place,” he said.
Canada gives humanitarian aid with one hand, missiles with the other, charges Arab woman, winner of Nobel Peace Prize
Already the poorest country in the Arab world, Yemen has seen its economy collapse under the Saudi coalition’s near-daily air raids, which have crippled the food supply and destroyed basic infrastructure. Starvation and disease are rampant, while hospitals have been targeted and most medical services are delivered by volunteers.
Tawakkol Karman, like many Yemenis, feels abandoned by the rest of the world. Karman, the first Arab woman awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, was once feted by the international community for her leadership during the Arab Spring protests, which forced out Yemen’s autocratic ruler, Ali Abdullah Saleh, after three decades in power.
“If I’m angry about something, or sad about something, it’s about the silence of the international community and their complicity,” Karman said in a phone interview. “Canada is giving from its right hand the humanitarian aid, and from the other, missiles.”
Although Ottawa’s investigation of report of Saudi use of Canadian-made arms found “no conclusive evidence,” the report has not been released
Arms exports to Saudi Arabia were temporarily put on hold for several months last year, following reports in the Globe and Mail about footage that appeared to show Canadian-made combat vehicles used by Saudi government forces to suppress civilian demonstrations. In February, Freeland said an internal investigation found “no conclusive evidence” that Canadian-made vehicles were used. The government has not disclosed the report.
In 2016, Trudeau gov. signed off on another Harper-approved sale of missiles to rights-violator Bahrain
Another deal considered problematic by arms control experts is Canada’s $2.2-million sale of 27 Maverick air-to-surface missiles to Bahrain, completed in 2016. (Canada also sold $1.3 million worth of military software to Bahrain that same year, but it’s unclear if the sales are related.)
Canada agreed to sell Bahrain the missiles, declared surplus by the Canadian military, in 2014 when Stephen Harper was prime minister. The war in Yemen had yet to begin, but Bahrain’s dismal human rights record at home — particularly in the years following the Arab Spring — was well documented by rights groups. The missiles weren’t shipped until 2016, when Trudeau’s government signed off on the export permit. By that point, Bahrain’s air force was heavily involved in the Saudi-led air raids in Yemen.
Freeland’s spokesperson justified the sale saying Bahrain is an “ally fighting terrorists”
Ken Epps, a longtime arms trade researcher for Project Ploughshares, said Canada’s existing export controls should have prevented the deal because of the “high risk” they could be used to commit human rights violations. But a Global Affairs spokesperson told the Star a risk assessment conducted prior to the sale and shipment of the missiles raised “no such concerns.” The spokesperson did not answer if the Canadian government knows whether or not the missiles have been used.
Freeland’s spokesperson said Bahrain is an ally in fighting terrorism in the region: “Canada and Bahrain collaborate closely to stop terrorism and piracy in the Red Sea, the Gulf of Aden, the Gulf of Oman and the Indian Ocean.”
Bahrain human rights activist says “Canada sends a message that its ‘OK with human rights abuses’”
Sayed Ahmed AlWadaei, a human rights activist who was imprisoned and tortured by Bahraini authorities following the government’s crackdown during the Arab Spring, said there is no justification for selling weapons to Bahrain.
“It sends the message that Canada is OK with human rights abuses,” said AlWadaei, who moved to the U.K. in 2012 and now works for the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy. He added that any country that sells arms to Bahrain is complicit in its abuses. “It’s a very simple equation: you either support a dictatorship with a terrible human rights record, or you stand up against them.”
Bahrain’s U.S. Embassy, which is also responsible for Canada, did not respond to multiple requests to comment for this story. Global Affairs Canada refused to disclose the criteria it used in its risk assessment of the Bahrain missile sale.
Despite Freeland’s can “do better” admission, Canada continues to keep secret its weapons’ sales to US
Freeland has said Canada can “do better” with regard to how it controls arms exports. She introduced legislation last year to make Canada a party to the Arms Trade Treaty, a United Nations initiative to better regulate the international arms trade. Under the proposed legislation, the government would be legally obligated to block exports where there is a “substantial risk” they could be used to commit human rights violations. Currently the risk assessments are only a consideration.
But Canada will continue to keep secret its trade to the U.S., and critics say that loophole means the government will continue to have virtually no control over where Canadian weapons end up. It’s also unclear how the new law, if passed, would change how Canada assesses risk. When asked, for instance, if Canada would have sold missiles to Bahrain if it had already been a party to the Arms Trade Treaty, Freeland’s spokesperson did not answer the question.
Data analysis by Andrew Bailey
Trudeau defends Canada’s $15 billion arms deal with despotic Saudi regime by Laurent Lafrance, World Socialist Web Site, May 2, 2018 — Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government is continuing to defend Canada’s $15 billion arms deal with Saudi Arabia, even as new information reveals the murderous character of the military equipment Ottawa is shipping to Riyadh.
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