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Saudi Arms Deal

This is about Canadian politics.

For a long time, the Liberals have been taking heat for a $15-billion dollar light-armored vehicle arms deal. New documents revealed as a result of a lawsuit have further ignited the controversy.

What's going on?

The Harper government allowed a deal to be made between a Canadian private company and the Saudi government for the sale of $15-billion worth of light armored vehicles. Already, notwithstanding everything else that happened, this should raise red flags; after all, these very same LAVs were used to roll over protesters (literally) a few years ago. At worst, to allow this to go forward is to be complicit in human rights abuses on a grand scale.

"Refusing to cancel a contract approved by the former government"

The Liberal government has, until recently, claimed that they could not have done anything about the contract, as the previous government had already approved it. This was what most people bought up until recently. Here's a quote from Stephane Dion2 in debate in the House of Commons to lend legitimacy to that storyline:

First of all, the government is not approving this contract. The government is simply refusing to cancel a contract approved by the former government, a contract between a private company and Saudi Arabia.

- Stephane Dion

And then a lawsuit happened

On March 21st, law professor Daniel Turp, and some of his students, filed a lawsuit to attempt to learn more information about the export, including aquiring a classified federal report on the matter. After some time going through the court system, on April 12th, this document was shared with the CBC and subsequently picked up on by other news agencies. (The first part, in French, is irrelevant to the second part, in English, which is what matters from it).

If you read through the document, you get to this part:

Yes, that's Stephane Dion reccomending "that six permits to export [redacted] LAVs and their associated weapon systems, spare parts, and technical data be approved," and that's his signature to prove it. This directly contradicts the official story that the deal was already approved by the previous government.

I would like to point out the the Harper government had approved permits for the export of technical information; however, they left the problem of the physical machinery and spare parts to the Trudeau government.

A blatant lie

Let's recall the quote mentioned above by Dion:

First of all, the government is not approving this contract. The government is simply refusing to cancel a contract approved by the former government, a contract between a private company and Saudi Arabia.

- Stephane Dion

The quote is from February 19th. But wait a second. Above, also on March 21st (according to a date near the top of the English part of the document), Dion was recommending that the permit be approved; it was later approved on April 8th. Yes, Stephane Dion blatantly lied to the public, and he knew it.

As a public, we (39% of us) elected the Liberals on the promise of change. We allowed them to collect taxes from us; we allowed them the authority to approve or deny export permits; and we expected them to uphold their promise.

Instead, they are lying to us, as if we are simply an impediment to their success; as if we are not the public that elected them. Stephane Dion, and the Liberals at large, have breached the public trust. As a result, I am calling on Stephane Dion to resign his posts both as Minister of Foreign Affairs and as member of Parliament for Saint-Laurent; it is the only way to control the breach of the public trust.

If I lie to the government, that's called perjury, and it's a criminal offense. What happens if the government lies to me?

Footnotes

  1. This is what senator Serge Joyal says he was told was the test in the guidelines. Globe and Mail article
  2. For technical reasons, I couldn't get the accent on the 'e' in Dion's name.
  3. Globe and Mail article

Postscript: The difference between signing a contract and granting an export permit

The government's argument will likely claim that the signing of a contract is in fact the final approval. However, as the Globe and Mail states3:

Records obtained by The Globe and Mail last year show that it was the export permit approval that was the true green light for a deal, not the signing of a contract. In 2014, Debbie Gowling, a senior official in Global Affair's export-controls division, explained to colleagues that there was no guarantee that the sale was officially approved by Ottawa until the export permit applications were processed.

Postscript: Arms Trade Treaty

The Arms Trade Treaty is a treaty to control the trade of arms (as the name says). It would have made this export illegal would it have been in force. However, in true Stephen Harper style, Canada has not signed the April 2013 treaty, now being in a minority of UN member states. People who have signed the treaty include the United States, Spain, France, and Germany. Why can't we sign on?