A new poll by NANOS Research shows a strong majority of Canadians oppose selling military goods to Saudi Arabia, China, and Algeria, countries in the top ten buyers of defence and security gear from Canada, but with dismal human rights records.
Saudi Arabia, as we have reported many times over, consistently ranks among the “worst of the worst” human rights abusers.
Here is what Human Rights Watch has to say about Algeria and China.
Despite the Algerian government’s promises in 2011 to introduce reforms, Algeria has made little progress since then on improving human rights. Authorities curtail free speech and the rights to freedom of association, assembly, and peaceful protest. They also arbitrarily arrest and prosecute political and trade union activists. Perpetrators of torture, enforced disappearances, unlawful killings, and other serious rights abuses committed during the civil war enjoy impunity. The Algerian government blocks the registration of Algerian nongovernmental human rights organizations and has maintained its non-cooperation with UN human rights experts.
China remains a one-party authoritarian state that systematically curbs fundamental rights. Since President Xi Jinping assumed power, the government has detained and prosecuted hundreds of activists and human rights defenders. Between July and September 2015, authorities interrogated some 280 lawyers – the backbone of China’s human rights movement – in a nationwide sweep. The government has moved to tighten control over nongovernmental organizations, activists, and the media through a slew of new laws that cast activism and peaceful criticism of the government as state security threats. The “Great Firewall” used to censor the Internet has been expanded. Despite legislation to curb torture in custody, police and interrogators have found ways to evade legal protections.
The NANOS poll also indicated that nine in ten Canadians want Foreign Minister Dion to reveal his decision on an application to export military items to Thailand, a country ruled by a military dictatorship since 2014. Despite being required, under various UN transparency mechanisms, to report this very information, the Liberal government has refused to reveal it to Canadians on the basis that it would harm the “commercial interests” of the companies involved.
Peggy Mason, RI President and former advisor at Foreign Affairs when the export control guidelines were first developed in 1986, finds this reasoning to be utterly without merit:
This is a manifestly absurd justification. While legitimate commercial interests may dictate keeping some aspects of the deal private, particularly sensitive proprietary information about the products in question, secrecy should never extend to whether or not the transaction actually took place.
In her view, such a rationale makes a mockery of the transparency the Trudeau Liberals have repeatedly pledged to provide, as well as rendering meaningless any notion of democratic accountability.
And what of the Liberal government’s promise to put a renewed emphasis on the UN, multilateralism, and diplomacy? Says Mason:
Canadians will rightly ask how doubling down on the Harper policy of selling arms to despots conforms to Liberal promises to “restore constructive Canadian leadership in the world… and to make a real and valuable contribution to a more peaceful… world.” (Prime Minister’s Mandate Letter to FM Stéphane Dion).
For the full details of the NANOS poll, see: Majority of Canadians oppose selling military goods to countries with poor human rights records: poll (Steven Chase, Globe and Mail, 13 July 2016).
For a recent, comprehensive review of the sordid Saudi arms deal which also provides some explosive new evidence of the degree of complicity of the Liberal government, see: Canada isn’t being totally honest about its plan to sell weapons to Saudi Arabia (Justin Ling, Vice.com, 12 July 2016).
See also: Ottawa Cannot Continue to Deny Dangers of Saudi Arms Deal (Cesar Jaramillo, Huffington Post, 14 July 2016).
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