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London, Ont. MP calls anti-war activists’ tactics ‘beyond unacceptable’

The outside of MP Peter Fragiskatos' office as seen Aug. 9, 2021. supplied by World Beyond War Canada

Activists say painted tank tracks in London, Ont., were meant to call attention to Canada’s controversial arms deal with Saudi Arabia, but a local MP calls the action “beyond unacceptable.”

World Beyond War says activists painted symbolic red tank tracks on Monday outside of the constituency offices of Liberal MPs Peter Fragiskatos and Kate Young, as well as outside the home of General Dynamics Land Systems president Danny Deep.

Read more: Ottawa to buy 360 LAVs from London’s General Dynamic Land Systems

The date marked the third anniversary of an airstrike targeting a bus that killed more than 50 people, including 40 children in Yemen. The group is demanding that Canada stop arming Saudi Arabia.

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General Dynamics in London is at the centre of the dispute as it supplies the light armoured vehicles (LAVs) Canada agreed to export to Saudi Arabia as part of a controversial $15-billion deal signed in 2014.

“There might be some out there that say that ‘oh this is just an unfortunate incident, admittedly, but it’s spilled paint. It can be easily washed off’ — and it has been — but what is next?” questioned Fragiskatos.

Read more: Coronavirus: Western University face shield initiative sees production boost from General Dynamics

He said he is always open to discussion, but argued that meaningful dialogue is not advanced “when offices are vandalized and when people’s homes are visited.”

“I shouldn’t have to worry about the security of my home, the security of my wife in our home and our future child. That is beyond unacceptable,” he told Global News.

“Focus on the facts. If you have legitimate grievances, let’s talk about them and let’s go from there. That’s how I see this.”

Fragiskatos said his office has received “many messages of support so far,” even from people who he knows are opposed to the deal.

Red paint made to look like tank tracks outside MP Kate Young’s office on Aug. 9, 2021. supplied by World Beyond War Canada

London police have confirmed to Global News that its uniformed division is investigating the matter and, as the investigation is in its early stages, police say they “don’t have further information at this time.”

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World Beyond War alleges that General Dynamics and the federal government share some responsibility for Saudi Arabia’s actions in Yemen, but Fragiskatos says that there is no clear line drawn between the LAVs produced in London and the LAVs “being used against civilians.”

“Military equipment produced by General Dynamics now and in the past has not been used against civilians and against human rights.”

Read more: U.S. hosts Saudi crown prince brother in first high-level visit since Khashoggi killing

In late 2019, Global Affairs Canada said it found no credible evidence linking Canadian military exports to human rights violations committed by the government of Saudi Arabia.

However, Global News reported at the time that video from Houthi-run Al Masirah TV and Al Jazeera showed what appeared to be Canadian-made LAVs and that two independent military experts confirmed the images were Canadian-made combat vehicles. Global News was not able to independently verify the video.

The conflict in Yemen, pitting Iran-allied Houthi rebels against Yemeni government forces supported by a Saudi-led military coalition, has been ongoing since 2014 and has been described as “the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.”

As of February 2021, the Armed Conflict Location & Event Project claimed that the war had killed roughly 130,000 people, including more than 13,000 civilians, and pushed millions to the brink of famine.

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— With files from Global News’ Andrew Russell and the Associated Press

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