THIS WEEK (July 30), Trump used his presidential veto to prevent a bill blocking arms sales to Saudi Arabia, passed by both chambers of U.S. Congress, from proceeding. The U.S. Senate failed to garner 67 votes needed to override Trump’s veto.
So it’s business as usual for the U.S. to be selling arms to Saudi Arabia. Business as usual for supporting a regime that has waged war in Yemen, bombing civilian targets and putting 22 million civilians on the brink of starvation.
Business as usual for selling arms to a country which killed and then dismembered Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi inside the Saudi consulate in Turkey by Saudi agents.
Business as usual for selling arms to a country which imprisons women seeking more freedoms. A country where executions are standard fare, and prisoners arrested as juveniles demonstrating against the king were executed earlier this year.
Business as usual for the US. But business as usual in Canada as well.
Despite our veneer, Canada is a major arms provider to the world.
Our biggest customer, accounting for about half of all arms sales, is the U.S.
Our second biggest customer, which accounts for 62 per cent of all non-U.S. sales, is Saudi Arabia. Canada sold $1.282 billion in Canadian military exports to Saudi Arabia in 2018. We sell almost as many arms to Saudi Arabia as to the U.S.
After that, the next closest customer for Canadian military hardware is Belgium, accounting for $154 million, or 7.4 per cent of non-U.S. sales. The combined purchase of the next nine countries after Saudi Arabia (Belgium, along with United Kingdom, France, Spain, Australia, Germany, United Arab Emirates and Italy), adds up to $610 million, or less than half of what Saudi Arabia purchases.
Canada’s arms industry is beholden to Saudi Arabia.
And, it appears, Canada’s government is too.
In June 2019, Britain ruled arms sales to Saudi Arabia unlawful because of Saudi Arabia’s airstrikes in civilian areas in Yemen.
In June, Belgium suspended arms export licenses to Saudi Arabia because of concerns they would be used against civilians in Yemen.
In March 2019, Germany extended an arms ban to Saudi Arabia citing the killing of Khashoggi and human rights concerns in Yemen
In November 2018 Norway also suspended arms exports.
Meanwhile, here in Canada, it’s business as usual, with a $15-billion sale of Canadian arms deal slated to go ahead. It’s clear which side the government of Canada stands with, and it’s not the juveniles sitting on death row who participated in demonstrations for democracy, or the journalists who are killed or detained. It’s not the Yemen children being bombed and facing starvation either.
The current Liberal government didn’t sign the deal with Saudi Arabia. It was penned by the previous Conservative government. But the current Liberal government is not backing away from it, either.
Without Saudi Arabia, the Canadian military weapons industry would flounder.
So now that Trump has vetoed a suspension of weapon sales to Saudi Arabia, Prime Minister Trudeau, and likely Conservative Party Leader Scheer, will likely quietly smile. They’re in no rush to side with democracy activists, journalists or children. They’re in no rush to side with the likes of the U.K., Belgium, Germany and Norway.
It’s back to business as usual.
Nancy Bepple is a former City councillor of Kamloops with a strong interest in community building projects.