The Canada-Saudi Arms Deal
In early 2015, the Harper Government announced an arms deal with Saudi Arabia. There were some very happy people that this sale went ahead. Others were quite unhappy. It was suspected that the Saudis would use these machines against other countries, such as Yemen, and against their own minority people.
When Trudeau and the Liberals won the federal election later that year, everyone expected that the new Canadian government would cancel the arms deal, but (surprise-surprise) they didn’t.
That put Canada in a very awkward position: as a country, we were dealing with another country that has a terrible reputation for human rights abuses. Canada’s position has always been quite clear: we do not associate with human rights abusers.
Fast Forward Three Years
Last week, Chrystia Freeland, Canada’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, called on Saudi Arabia to release two human rights activists, siblings Raif and Samar Badawi.
This set off a firestorm of response from the Saudis. So far, they have: recalled their Ambassador; kicked out Canada’s Ambassador; told Saudi students and medical trainees that they have to leave Canada by the end of the month; pulled airline services; and began to sell off Canadian stock holdings.
So far, Canada has not responded in kind, and have firmly but diplomatically stood their ground. This has enraged the Saudis. No Western countries have sided with Canada. Even the United States has suggested that each side choose diplomacy to de-escalate the crisis. Canada is on its own. Everyone else is worried about losing all that lovely oil money.
Perhaps, and we may never know for sure, the Liberals have decided that they need to start acting like Liberals and not pseudo-Conservatives. There is a federal election coming next year, and the Liberal political base will willingly vote NDP if they think their leaders are betraying their ethics.
This places the Trudeau government in a tricky position. If they don’t stand up to the Saudis, they will be acquiescing to a corrupt and cruel country. But the silver lining is that there is a potential that the Saudis may cancel the balance of the arms deal from 2015. This will let the Liberals off the hook, and they can ‘tsk-tsk’ all the way to the polls that the Saudis did it, not them.
Politics makes for some very strange bedfellows. Clean-cut Trudeau hanging out with ‘dirty-tricks’ Saudis is one step too far.
If Canada can stand up to Trump, and the Republican party, it must surely be able to withstand pressure from the Arabian Peninsula.
The province that will most likely suffer the consequences is Ontario. The new Progressive Conservative government here is headed by a wannabe Trump, Doug Ford. There is no love lost between Ottawa and Ontario. This split in partisan politics will be just the ticket for a federal return to power.
But who’s return: the Liberals or the Conservatives?
We’ll just have to see how it plays out.