Since the moment it was announced in 2014 by the Harper government, the multibillion-dollar Canadian arms export deal with human-rights pariah Saudi Arabia has been shrouded in controversy. Most recently it has come under renewed scrutiny following allegations that the Saudi regime used violence — and Canadian equipment — to repress civilians in the Eastern Province.
Through it all, Ottawa’s handling of this file has been nearly as problematic as the deal itself. As a recent Globe and Mail editorial pointed out, this contract “has been a tricky inheritance for the Trudeau government, one that it handled poorly from the minute it came to power in 2015.”
How ethical, for instance, is the “if we don’t arm the Saudis, someone else will” argument used by both Conservatives and Liberals? How transparent were the Liberal early efforts to portray the transaction as a “done deal,” even though export permits had not yet been authorized?