Canada’s foreign affairs minister is “deeply concerned” following reports military vehicles manufactured in Canada may have been used to carry out human rights violations in Saudi Arabia.
Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland said she has personally spoken to the European Union’s foreign minister, Federica Mogherini, about Canada’s investigation into recent videos appearing to show the Canadian-made armoured vehicles being used by Saudi Arabia’s forces against citizens.
Freeland says she’s instructed her officials to urgently investigate the matter and determine whether the vehicles in the videos were, in fact, armoured personnel carriers made by Terradyne Armoured Vehicles of Newmarket, Ont.
The armoured vehicles have appeared in news and social media posts from Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province, where the Saudi government is trying to stamp out unrest among the region’s minority Shia population.
Similar concerns were raised in February of 2014 when the federal government announced it had signed a $15-billion arms deal for London-based General Dynamics Land Systems (GDLS) to make LAVs for the Saudi government.
Unifor Local 27 President Jim Reid said even though footage doesn’t show vehicles manufactured in London, it still raises questions among the more than 500 GDLS employees it represents about how the Canadian government handles contract breaches and human rights violations.
“The workers feel like they’ve been treated as a pawn in a chess game here… and it’s a dangerous thing for people on different sides of the political spectrum to be trying to play political games with people’s livelihoods.”
Reid says vehicles are intended to be used for defensive purposes, if Saudia Arabia were to be attacked by a foreign power.
If vehicles are proven to be Canadian-made, Freeland hasn’t detailed what kind of action the federal government will take, except to say they’ll respond accordingly.
Almost from the moment Justin Trudeau’s Liberals took office, his government has been under fire for allowing arms exports to Saudi Arabia, which is widely denounced as one of the world’s worst abusers of human rights.
Canadian export controls prohibit the sale of arms to countries with a persistent record of serious human rights violations against their own citizens.
With files from the Canadian Press