October 19th, 2018

NDP Calls on Foreign Affairs Minister to Retract Comments on Saudi Arms Deal

OTTAWA – New Democrats are disturbed by comments made by the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Chrystia Freeland, suggesting honouring the Saudi arms deal is more important than upholding international law. These comments were made during a radio interview after the Minister was asked about the disappearance of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, and the role of the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen, a country dealing with large-scale famine.

When asked about arms exports to Saudi Arabia, “even if there is a slaughter taking place” in Yemen, the Minister said, “it is very important that Canada can be a trusted partner in the world over a longer period of time than elections can guarantee.” Thursday in Question Period, NDP MP Hélène Laverdière (Laurier—Sainte-Marie) asked the Minister to explain these comments.

“Continuing to send weapons to Saudi Arabia would be a complete abdication of our collective responsibility towards the lives of Saudi Arabians and Yemenis,” said Laverdière. “Canadians expect better.”

New Democrats have always stood firmly with Canadians and civil society organizations such as Amnesty International Canada and Human Rights Watch, who have repeatedly called for an end to Canadian arms exports to Saudi Arabia. The Arms Trade Treaty obliges Member States to consider the potential that military goods could be used to violate international human rights and humanitarian law or undermine peace and security before authorizing exports. It also requires that arms export permits be reviewed when new facts arise.

“A trusted partner also stands up for human rights in action, not just in words,” said Laverdière.

A recent poll by Ipsos shows that more than 84 percent of Canadians oppose Canada's ongoing sales of arms to Saudi Arabia, amid evidence that Canadian weapons have been used against Saudi dissidents, as well as in the horrific war in Yemen, a war fuelled by arms sales to the Saudi coalition that has cost the lives of thousands of civilians.