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Canada's Arms Trade Sends 'Message of Political Support' to Saudi Arabia

© REUTERS / /Chris WattieCanada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau pauses before the start of an interview with Reuters on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, May 19, 2016.
Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau pauses before the start of an interview with Reuters on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, May 19, 2016. - Sputnik International
According to research published this week by American magazine "Janes Defense Weekly," Canada is now the second biggest provider of arms to the Middle East.

This revelation comes amid continued controversy over Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's decision to proceed with a US$15 billion arms deal with Saudi Arabia agreed in 2014, a deal which only one in five Canadians support.

The study by Janes shows Canada moving from 6th place, passing Germany, Russia, France and the United Kingdom. Canada is not alone in its involvement in controversial trade deals in Middle Eastern states, though many have expressed surprise over Liberal Trudeau's commitment to the deal signed by his Conservative predecessor.

Sputnik spoke to Andrew Smith of the Campaign Against Arms Trade, who suggested that that the Canadian Government's focus on increasing its arms deals is not really that surprising.

"For quite some time now the Canadian Government has been putting a greater emphasis on arms exports. The Middle East has been one of the main targets; Saudi Arabia in particular, has been a very large buyer of Canadian weaponry and Canadian arms." 

Though Mr Smith added that this is not just an economic transaction:

"Canada isn't just selling these countries weapons, it is also sending them a message of political support."

Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch are just two of many organizations who have criticized the Canadian Government's decision to honor the 2014 deal with Saudi Arabia, citing concerns over Saudi Arabia's human rights record and their current role in the conflict in Yemen

Canadian flag - Sputnik International
Canada's Breaking of Saudi Arms Deal to Lead to Damaging Consequences

Smith suggested that Canada's continued trade deals with Saudi Arabia highlighted "hypocrisy" in Canadian foreign policy, describing Saudi Arabia as "one of the most brutal, violent oppressive dictatorships in the entire world."

"It brings Canada closer to Saudi Arabia, and to countries like Saudi Arabia. It sends the message that the Canadian Government think these are legitimate governments you can do business with. It really highlights the hypocrisy at the heart of foreign policy.

"The Canadian Government is regarded as a more peaceful one than the US. It's regarded as a more liberal one than the US, everybody knows that there is rank hypocrisy right at the core of US foreign policy but I don't think everybody knows that about Canada," Smith told Sputnik.

The European Parliament voted in favor of an arms embargo on Saudi Arabia in February this year, but this is not a legally binding agreement and the United Kingdom continues to trade weaponry with Saudi Arabia alongside several other European Countries.

"There's a difference between what the European Parliament says and what European Governments do," Smith said, adding that the European Parliament vote would not have put pressure on Canada with regards EU relations.

"There's a large difference between the rhetoric and reality. In terms of the impact on European-Canadian relations, I don't think it will necessarily make any long-term change."

One area that has caused great concern to many human rights organizations is the ability for rebel troops and terrorist organizations to gain weapons that have been sold to Middle Eastern governments. Earlier this year it was reported that Canadian rifles were being used by rebel troops in Yemen. 

"When arms are sold into warzones we have no idea where they are going to end up. That's how you end up with rifles falling into the hands of Houthi rebels, that is how you end up with ISIS [Daesh] tooling up with weapons by stealing large quantities of those which were originally sold to the Iraqi Government.

"This is a large part of the problem, there's no such thing as arms control in a warzone and countries like Canada are selling weapons into warzones on a daily basis." Smith told Sputnik.

In justifying the trade deal the Canadian Government highlighted that it would create 3000 jobs in Ontario — this is the same number of civilian fatalities that a United Nations Human Rights spokesperson estimated had occurred in Yemen alone between March and December of last year.

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