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Liberal gun runners

John Bell

June 28, 2016

Thanks largely to the sale of tanks to Saudi Arabia, begun under Harper but receiving the blessing of the Trudeau Liberals, Canada has become the second largest dealer of arms to the Middle East.

According to the defence industry publication Janes Weekly, Canada has vaulted up to become the world’s sixth largest arms dealer. In 2015 Canadian arms corporations exported more than $3 billion worth of military equipment. The deal with Saudi Arabia commits Canada to provide the armoured vehicles over 14 years, in return for about $15 billion.

Profitable repression

Although the deal was negotiated under the Tories, it was the Liberals that issued the export permits in April. That is despite export rules that are supposed to prevent such deals with anti-democratic regimes. Saudi Arabia has a terrible human rights record, and according to organizations like Amnesty International an already bad situation has worsened in the past year.

According to a report in The Globe & Mail business section, no member of the Trudeau government would comment on Canada’s increasing arms business. Questions were referred to a bureaucrat at the department of Global Affairs: “The government of Canada remains firmly committed to introducing more transparency and rigour in export controls,” spokeswoman Rachna Mishra said.

Adam Taylor, a former Harper staffer and now an arms industry lobbyist in Ottawa isn’t so shy. “Canada should be proud that in a fiercely competitive global context Canada is competing and winning against the best in the world in the defence sector. All of our closest political allies are our fiercest economic competitors. Those governments support their businesses’ pursuits of global opportunities and so should Canada’s.”

The Liberals probably are working hard to support arms deals. I say probably, because they are working even harder to keep people across Canada from finding out.

Liberal secrets

In April, Foreign Minister Stéphane Dion made a decision whether or not to ship arms to Thailand, a brutal military dictatorship since a 2014 coup. But he and his office refuse to tell us what that decision was. The reason? Business dealings require confidentiality.

“The information provided to the government of Canada is commercially confidential. We cannot share further information on this export permit,” Joseph Pickerill, director of communications for Mr. Dion, told the Globe.

He went on: “We’re actively working towards introducing greater transparency and rigour into the system going forward.” Mr. Pickerill is obviously working with the same script as Ms. Mishra.

It is interesting that the same Liberal government that refuses to scrap Bill C-51—which potentially violates the privacy of everyone across Canada—is so zealous in protecting the privacy of the arms industry.

The militarization of Canada didn’t begin with the Harper Tories, and it sure didn’t end with them. The only difference is that Harper’s gang were proud to be gun runners, while the Liberals prefer to play coy.


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