Published by The Globe and Mail on July 27, 2021
The federal government last year approved a deal with Canadian business connections for the sale of nearly $74-million of weapons to Saudi Arabia, even as there were calls for Canada to stop arms transactions with the Saudis, one of the main combatants fuelling the war in Yemen.
Global Affairs said in a report that Ottawa issued a brokering permit to a Canadian, or Canadian company, that sold $73.9-million worth of explosives to Saudi Arabia. The arms originated in France, according to the recently released 2020 Report on Exports of Military Goods from Canada.
In 2018, Parliament passed legislation giving Ottawa authority to regulate brokering of the sale or transfer of weapons or other restricted technology between two or more foreign countries when Canadians or Canadian companies are involved in the transaction. This means foreign weapons deals brokered by Canadians or Canadian companies located outside of the country require a brokering permit from Ottawa.
Ottawa discloses little about these transactions. It keeps the identities of weapons brokers and suppliers secret in the name of commercial confidentiality. It also doesn’t reveal the precise nature of the goods sold, only saying in this case that they belong to Export Control List category 2.4, which includes “bombs, torpedoes, rockets, missiles, other explosive devices and charges and related equipment and accessories.”
Saudi Arabia has been embroiled in a war in neighbouring Yemen since 2015 as the leader of a coalition of Mideast and African countries supporting a Yemeni government against Houthi rebels backed by Iran. Human-rights groups and Western political leaders – including the European Parliament – have urged a freeze on arms sales to Saudi Arabia.
Kelsey Gallagher, a researcher with Project Ploughshares, a disarmament group that tracks arms exports, said it’s puzzling why Canada would greenlight a brokering permit for selling explosives to Saudi Arabia, which has been carrying out air strikes in Yemen for six years.
“The concern here is that Canada could be facilitating the transfer of military explosives to a country that frequently breaches international humanitarian law.”
Mr. Gallagher noted that a United Nations panel of experts on Yemen has said “the provision of weapons to any of the conflict parties in Yemen is facilitating the conflict itself and potential war crimes.”