Statement by the Hon. Stéphane Dion, Canada's Minister of Foreign of Affairs, on the sale of light armoured vehicles to Saudi Arabia
April 13, 2016 - Ottawa, Ontario - Global Affairs Canada
The Honourable Stéphane Dion, Minister of Foreign Affairs, today released the following statement:
The Government of Canada has decided to honour the previously agreed contract for the sale of light armoured vehicles (LAVs) to Saudi Arabia, signed and then announced on February 14, 2014. We have provided our reasons on many occasions. Each is mutually reinforcing of the other, and, taken together, they provide a comprehensive basis for explaining our decision.
We will not weaken the credibility of the signature of the Government of Canada.
Choosing the right lever to improve human rights in Saudi Arabia
The Government of Canada is committed to advancing human rights everywhere, including in Saudi Arabia. We do not miss an opportunity to raise issues with our Saudi Arabian counterparts, nor do we miss opportunities for positive engagement. There are over 16,000 Saudi Arabian students attending our universities, which will likely help to promote the liberalization of Saudi Arabian society. If we drop the contract, we will set back the clock on these productive efforts. And we will simply hand the contract to a non-Canadian—potentially more ambivalent—provider.
Continual rigorous oversight of human rights
The government having made the decision to honour the contract, it is then my responsibility to determine whether it is appropriate to authorize export permits for these LAVs. Last Friday, I made the decision to grant the export permits.
Since 1986, Canada has had a stringent process in place for approving export permits for the sale of military equipment. One of the considerations is whether the equipment being sold would be used to violate human rights. Different versions of this military equipment were provided by Canadian companies to Saudi Arabia since 1993; our best, and regularly updated, information indicates that Saudi Arabia has not misused the equipment to violate human rights. Nor has the equipment been used in a manner contrary to the strategic interests of Canada and its allies.
For the future, as with all export permits, the minister of foreign affairs retains the power to revoke at any time the permits should the assessment change. Should I become aware of credible information concerning violations related to this equipment, I will suspend or revoke the permits. We are watching this closely and will continue to do so. This is what I am committed to doing if these military vehicles are used for the wrong purposes. The Prime Minister has tasked me with exercising this power with the greatest rigour and increased transparency.
Saudi Arabia is a strategic partner in an increasingly volatile region, particularly in the armed conflict against the so-called Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). Supporting our partners is essential in preventing the chaos, lawlessness, atrocities and terrorist attacks perpetrated by ISIL, al Qaeda and other terrorist groups active in the region and beyond.
The economy matters
Any time a contract is broken, financial penalties are sure to follow. In this case, it is the Canadian taxpayer who is on the hook. Cancellation would deprive almost 2,000 workers of their livelihood, principally in London, Ontario. We must take into account the chain of repercussions for an industry on which around 70,000 Canadian jobs directly depend and which plays an important role in fostering research and development in Canada.
In conclusion, we have drawn lessons from this case.
The Prime Minister has instructed me to provide transparency and rigour on two fronts. The first, as I indicated, regards the export permit process.
The second regards the reports that the Government of Canada produces on the situation of human rights in some countries. Here too, the Prime Minister has asked that I ensure that these reports are produced with full rigour and greater transparency. I continue to work on this with my officials, because Canadians are entitled to this.
We have decided to honour this contract, which provides thousands of jobs for Canadian families, and be more vigilant than ever about human rights. That is responsible conviction.
Concerning the Arms Trade Treaty
Acceding to the ATT is part of a broader effort to restore Canada’s role as a constructive actor on the world stage and to contribute to global security and stability. It will be just one component of the Government of Canada’s review of export controls in order to increase their rigour and transparency.
The ATT is an international treaty that aims to reduce the illicit trade of arms. It is designed to stop unregulated and irresponsible arms transfers and to promote responsibility, transparency and accountability in the global arms trade.
The Arms Trade Treaty has already been signed by 130 countries and takes important steps to reduce the suffering of the millions of people—around the world—who are affected by armed conflict. The government will accede to the Arms Trade Treaty at the earliest opportunity.
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