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NDP calls on Trudeau to cancel sale of armoured vehicles to Saudi Arabia

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Photo by New Zealand Defence Force/Wikimedia Commons.

Saudi authorities have now admitted that 59-year-old Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi died on October 2 in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey.

The Associated Press reports, "Khashoggi, a prominent journalist and royal court insider for decades in Saudi Arabia, had written columns for The Washington Post critical of Prince Mohammed and the kingdom's direction while living in self-imposed exile in the U.S."

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is the son of King Salman, a member of Saudi Arabia's ruling Al Saud family, and, as reported by the Washington Post, "the country's de facto ruler". The family is estimated to have a net worth of $1.4 trillion. Significantly, Saudi Arabia exports about 11 million barrels of oil a day.

Emily Thornberry, the British Labour party's shadow secretary of state for foreign and Commonwealth affairs, says, "[Bin Salman] presides over what is projected to be the biggest year of beheadings in Saudi Arabia's history, including forcing those brutal executions on women and men simply for protesting for greater civil, political and religious freedoms."

She adds, "He is the prince so sensitive to criticism that he is forcing through a law that will punish any individual distributing satire on social media that 'mocks, provokes or disrupts public order, religious values and public morals', with prison sentences of up to five years and fines of up to £623,000 [$1 million CAD]."

Khashoggi had described himself as an "independent journalist using his pen for the good of his country." The Washington Post comments, "Mr. Khashoggi had never sought to be a disrupter and instead, as a lifelong member of the Saudi political establishment, had been an advocate for modest reform within the system."

It is now believed that Khashoggi was tortured, his fingers cut off (because he was a writer), killed and dismembered on the orders of the Crown Prince.

The Associated Press notes, "On Thursday, a leaked surveillance photo put Maher Abdulaziz Mutreb, a member of Prince Mohammed's entourage on trips to the U.S., France and Spain this year, at the consulate just ahead of Khashoggi's arrival."

Now, CTV reports, "Federal NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh is urging Ottawa to cancel a $15-billion arms deal with Saudi Arabia."

Singh says, "Its implication and involvement in the death of a journalist makes it very clear at this point that we can no longer continue to sell arms to Saudi Arabia."

The arms deal involves the sale of light-armoured military vehicles (known as LAV 6s) being made by Unifor Local 27 workers at the General Dynamics Land Systems factory in London, Ontario.

The London Free Press has reported, "The agreement, according to some reports, includes 928 LAV 6 vehicles in total. Of those, 354 are standard troop carriers, 119 are assault vehicles with 105-millimetre canons, another 119 are anti-tank vehicles and a further 119 have a 30-millimetre gun."

Last month, CBC reported that the order had been reduced to 742 LAV 6s, but that, "delivery of the vehicles is already underway and has been for months."

In September 2015, the National Post reported, "In a federal leaders' debate, when the NDP's Tom Mulcair questioned [the arms sale] it drew fire from Unifor, the union that represents workers at the London plant."

That article adds, "'We have contacted the NDP about this issue', said Fergo Berto, Unifor area director for London, adding that Unifor national president Jerry Dias spoke recently to Mulcair. ...'We asked the NDP to not make this an issue, that it be kept under wraps. There are a lot of issues out there to be talking about...'"

NDP MP Irene Mathyssen (who is not seeking re-election in the October 2019 federal election) stated in that article that the NDP would not cancel the LAV 6 contract with Saudi Arabia if it were to form government.

In this context, Singh's statement could be seen as bold.

The Trudeau government's position, despite recent rhetoric of concern over human rights in Saudi Arabia, continues to be that this sale of arms cannot be stopped.

In March of this year, The Guardian reported, "[Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says] "his government had little choice but to respect the contract signed by the previous government. 'Permits are only approved if the exports are consistent with our foreign and defence policies, including human rights', said Trudeau. 'Our approach fully meets our national obligations and Canadian laws.'"

An Ipsos poll, commissioned by the global citizens' movement Avaaz this past August, found that 84 per cent of Canadians agree that Canada should stop selling arms to Saudi Arabia. Amnesty International, Project Ploughshares and other civil society groups have called for the sale of LAV 6s to Saudi Arabia to be cancelled.

Image: Wikimedia Commons

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