Thursday, February 08, 2018

Trudeau's Love Affair With Tyrants

"The Liberal government had pledged to uphold higher standards after the terrible Saudi arms deal but instead it is selling to the worst and most repressive regime in Asia where the president brags about personally shooting drug users and throwing people out of helicopters."
"How long will it be until the [Philippine] military is using the helicopters during executions?"
Steve Staples, vice-president, Rideau Institute, Ottawa

"Given President Duterte's abysmal human rights record -- which Ottawa is no doubt aware of -- this raises troubling questions about the risk of the helicopters being equipped with weapons and of their use in human rights violations."
"Although the helicopters are being supplied for military use, they are classified by the Canadian government as civilian and thus their export does not require special authorization."
Cesar Jaramillo, executive director, Project Ploughshares
A Philippine Air Force chaplain blesses a newly-delivered Bell 412 helicopter during a christening ceremony in Manila in 2015.Jay Directo/AFP/Getty Images

In the Philippines, President Rodrigo Duterte is waging an unremitting war on drugs during which an estimated 12,000 people have died, targeted for extermination on the basis that they are identified by police death squads given direction by the president, as drug users and dealers. The international criticism that has arisen in the face of this violence has stung Duterte, but he snarls in defiance, telling his critics, from Pope Francis to other heads of government to go to hell.

But for this government now in Canada a sale of 16 combat helicopters worth $234-million, is a consideration of far greater importance than their potential to be used by a murderous regime, let alone a decision to use those helicopters against elements of his population. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is fully invested in seeing that the Province of Quebec be given advantageous employment priority over any foreign entity, since the Bell 412 aircraft would be built in Mirabel, Quebec.

An earlier arrangement to sell light-armoured vehicles to Saudi Arabia that the previous government in Ottawa had signed off on, was minimized by Trudeau during the election campaign that brought the Liberals to power, when Trudeau characterized them as being merely 'jeeps'. The ruling Liberal government then proceeded with the deal and will continue to provide Saudi Arabia with the vehicles, while involved in a conflict in Yemen that is killing civilians by the droves in the poorest of the Arab countries, involved in a civil war.

The very same group, the Canadian Commercial Corporation, that had brokered the $15-billion Saudi sale of light-armoured vehicles, is involved in this current helicopter sale. But without the Government of Canada signing off on the deal, it would never be carried through. Last year, reports came through that another type of armoured vehicle accessed from a Canadian company, was being used on their own citizens by the Saudis.

Given the fact that government rules in Canada call for curbing shipments to countries having a "persistent record of serious violations of the human rights of their citizens", and with the knowledge that the Saudis are known for their disturbing human rights record, this decision by the government is inexplicable, other than to acknowledge that it is that hungry for trade opportunities it can manage to overlook any infringements of human rights.

According to Canada's foreign affairs body, Global Affairs Canada, the helicopters are slated for use in "disaster relief, search and rescue, passenger transport, and utility transport", which is a precious statement on their part. Once the sale is made and the goods transferred to foreign ownership the seller has no right whatever in insisting the product be used in any particular way, and not for use in a manner that would reflect poorly on the seller.

A more realistic response has issued from Philippines Major General Restituto Padilla, military chief of plans, who stated: "The helicopters will be used for the military's internal security operations", and those operations, understandably, will reflect any issues and uses that the Philippine Presidents orders.

And then there is another issue that has cropped up in similar vein; an end-of-year statement by Canada's Defence Minister Sajjit Harjit that Canada has signed a new defence agreement with the United Arab Emirates supporting further military cooperation and which "also means opening doors for Canadian industry in the region" of the Middle East, already embroiled in more than enough violence, without Canadian-produced armaments to add to the fray.

Norway's government, in contrast to Canada's, has decided to suspend its exports of weapons and ammunition to the UAE in recognition of concerns their equipment could be used in the Yemen civil war of which the UAE is part of the coalition led by Saudi Arabia, fighting Houthi Shiite forces. The international community is well aware that Saudi Arabia has been bombing civilian targets. And as though that isn't sufficient reason for Canada to abstain, Germany too has halted arms shipments to Saudi Arabia in reflection of its Yemen war involvement.

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