Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is being pressed by a self-described “coalition of civil society organizations” to release the results of a review of arms exports to Saudi Arabia, specifically Light Armoured Vehicles (LAVs) manufactured by General Dynamics Land Systems Canada (GDLSC) in London, Ontario.

In a letter dated Aug. 4 but released Aug. 6 by Amnesty International Canada, the coalition says neither Trudeau nor his foreign affairs and international trade ministers have responded to concerns set out five months ago in another letter.

In this latest letter, they repeated their call for Canada to suspend the LAV exports, saying that Parliament’s approval of Bill-47, which enables it to sign the 2014 international Arms Trade Treaty and become legally bound by its commitments in September, underscores the need to end the shipments.

“Canada’s good-faith efforts to implement Article 7 of the ATT will be highly questionable if exports continue after these legal requirements become binding as a matter of both domestic and international law.

Article 7 applies to the use of military equipment in ways which violate human rights; earlier LAVs evidently were being used for internal purposes by the Saudis.

Global Affairs Canada has reported that 127 full-system versions of the LAVs were exported to Saudi Arabia in 2018 out of a total order of 742, which was reduced from an original 928.

“In light of the rapid pace at which the LAVs are being exported, further delays to completing the . . . review and your government’s ultimate decision will substantially undermine their meaningfulness,” the coalition said. “We are deeply concerned that meaningful action will come too late – that is, once the transfers are complete or nearly completed.”

Also citing the long-running civil war in Yemen, in which Saudi forces are involved­, they point out that conditions there continue to deteriorate.

“War has set back Yemen’s development by 20 years.” they contend. “The worsening conflict dynamics, and the ongoing risk that Canadian arms could be used to perpetrate serious violations of international human rights and international humanitarian law, are such that Canada must join the swelling ranks of countries which have ended their military transfers to Saudi Arabia.

“In the lead up to the 2019 federal election, and in light of the United Kingdom’s recent decision to suspend weapons exports to Saudi Arabia and of repeated votes in the United States Congress in favor of banning arms exports to Saudi Arabia, Canadians are entitled to know the outcome of the government review,” notes the letter.

Ken Pole