With the revelation of the killing of Washington Post journalist, Jamal Khashoggi, in Saudi Arabia’s consulate, Turkey, there is increasing pressure for Canada to cancel its contract for sale of light armoured vehicles (LAVs) to the kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said that while Canada has condemned the killing of the journalist and is not afraid to freeze permits on arms exports, the contracts that bind them to supply LAVs to Saudi Arabia are very difficult to break.
Speaking to Matt Galloway on CBC Radio’s Metro Morning on Tuesday, Trudeau explained that the way the previous Conservative government negotiated the contract made it very frustratingly difficult to suspend and prevented disclosure of conditions.
“The contract signed by the previous government, by Stephen Harper, makes it very difficult to suspend or leave that contract,” Trudeau said. “We are looking at a number of things, but it is a difficult contract.
“I actually can’t go into it, because part of the deal on this contract is not talking about this contract, and it’s one of the binds that we are left in because of the way that the contract was negotiated.”
Germany has already stopping its arms sales in light of the incident and other countries, and are working to figure out what kind of diplomatic and economic pressure could be applied to Saudi Arabia to make it clear that the apparent murder of the once Saudi royal family insider within the walls of the Saudi embassy in Turkey is unacceptable.
The world has of course noticed that Canada, which has had a very serious rift with the kingdom, beginning earlier this year, when the government publicly criticized the arrests of women’s rights activities, is still sanctioning the military deal.
While Trudeau said the government was not afraid to suspend military export permits like they had in the past, he explained that this contract could have more of a back lash on Canada and they were doing their due diligence with looking into the matter.
“I do not want to leave Canadians holding a billion dollar bill because we’re trying to move forward on doing the right thing. So we are navigating this very carefully and that’s pretty much all I can say on that.” said Trudeau.
Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland has made it very clear that Canada condemns the killing of the journalist and that the Saudis’ “explanations” of the killing of Khashoggi “lack consistency and credibility.”
She has also agreed with the federal government’s call for a thorough investigation in collaboration with Turkish officials, demanding a full and transparent investigation.
“We are gravely concerned by the murder of Jamal Khashoggi,” she said. “We do not find the explanations that have been offered to date to be credible or consistent. That is a serious problem for Canada.” She said.
However, while the Opposition is calling for government to invoke the new Magnitsky law which gives the government the authority to freeze Canadian assets of foreign individuals who have violated human rights, to sanction those responsible for Khashoggi’s death, there is as yet no concrete word on whether that is the course Canada will take.