Government touts $10 billion contract to arm Saudi Arabia amid human rights concerns
By Lee Berthiaume, Postmedia News – 14 February, 2014
OTTAWA – Canada’s defence industry has beaten out German and French competitors to win a massive contract worth at least $10 billion US to supply armoured military vehicles to Saudi Arabia.
The win was announced by International Trade Minister Ed Fast to cheering workers Friday at a factory in London, Ont., and will go a long way in bolstering the Harper government’s case for transforming Canada into a global arms dealer.
But it also raises many ethical questions that will continue to surface as Canada’s arms industry turns more and more to the volatile Middle East and South America for business.
Canada has previously sold light armoured vehicles (LAVs) like those used by Canadian soldiers in Afghanistan to Saudi Arabia, with more than 1,000 delivered to the Middle Eastern kingdom in the early 1990s, and 700 more in 2009.
But the government is touting this latest deal as the largest export contract in Canadian history, with the potential to create and sustain 3,000 jobs in southern Ontario and other parts of the country.
Exactly how many LAVs are being sold to Saudi Arabia was not being revealed, but documents filed in the U.S. by General Dynamics Land Systems – Canada, whose London-based subsidiary will be building the vehicles, put the contract at between $10 billion and $13 billion.
Defence and export industry representatives praised the Conservative government Friday for its role in securing the deal.
“This is an Olympic win for Canada and for Canadian manufacturers,” Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters president Jayson Myers said in a press release. “Like all victories, it’s been the result of a team effort in which the government has played a crucial role. All Canadians should be proud of this record achievement.”
Such government support is consistent with its plan to offset job losses and factory closures in other segments of the manufacturing sector by turning Canada’s arms industry into a global player.
Yet concerns have been previously raised about selling such military hardware to Saudi Arabia, given countless reports of human rights violations, including severe restrictions on protests and dissent, and excessive use of force when disbanding demonstrations. …more