It would cost Canada $1B to cancel Saudi arms deal in wake of Khashoggi case, Trudeau says

Click to play video: 'Does Canada need to freeze its arms deal with Saudi Arabia?'
Does Canada need to freeze its arms deal with Saudi Arabia?
WATCH: The Panel on Canada's arms deal with Saudi Arabia, and the government's plans for provinces who do not enact a Carbon Tax – Oct 23, 2018

OTTAWA – Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says he doesn’t want to leave Canadians “holding a billion-dollar bill” by cancelling the controversial contract to sell armoured vehicles to Saudi Arabia.

The comments come as the Liberal government is facing new pressure to cancel the deal amid international outrage over the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi earlier this month.

Canada has added its voice to global calls for answers, with Trudeau saying on Tuesday that the Saudi government’s explanation of what happened lacks credibility.

WATCH: Andrew Scheer calls for ban on import of gas from Saudi Arabia

Click to play video: 'Andrew Scheer calls for ban on import of oil from Saudi Arabia'
Andrew Scheer calls for ban on import of oil from Saudi Arabia

“That’s why we are pushing for real clear answers on this,” he said in a Tuesday interview with the CBC.

Story continues below advertisement

“It is unacceptable and unthinkable that someone could have murdered a journalist on foreign soil like this. That is something that the global community cannot stand for and we’re being very clear about that.”

Human rights groups have urged Canada to cancel the $15-billion contract to sell light armoured vehicles to Saudi Arabia – a 2014 deal signed by the Harper government and upheld by the Liberals.

But while saying the government could suspend export permits, Trudeau said the “difficult” contract is structured in a way that “makes it very difficult to suspend or leave the contract.”

“I do not want to leave Canadians holding a billion-dollar bill because we’re trying to move forward on doing the right thing,” he added. “So we’re navigating this very carefully.”

In a separate interview on 1310 News in Ottawa, Trudeau said he did not want Canadians “forking over billions of dollars to Saudi Arabia because we’re standing up for human rights.”

On Monday, Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland said Canada is “gravely concerned by the murder” of Khashoggi, adding there are “very important questions” about the entire relationship with Saudi Arabia.

Story continues below advertisement

Human-rights groups have long opposed the deal over a lack of transparency and fears the Saudi government has used the Canadian-made vehicles to commit atrocities against its own people.

The vehicles are being built by General Dynamics Land Systems in London, Ont.

The Saudi deal has been billed as the largest arms-export contract in Canadian history.

Sponsored content