WCR Logo


January 25, 2016

Canada has had a change of government, but no change of mind on selling light armoured vehicles to the government of Saudi Arabia. Not only has Saudi Arabia one of the worst human rights records in the world, but Foreign Affairs Minister Stéphane Dion had the audacity to announce the $15-billion arms deal will proceed days after the Saudis' mass execution of 47 people.

It seems not to matter to the Liberals or their Conservative predecessors that, when selling arms to governments guilty of extensive human rights abuses, Ottawa is obliged to obtain assurances that the weapons will not be used against the country's own people. Indeed, similar Canadian-made vehicles were sent by Saudi Arabia to Bahrain in 2011 to help put down a democratic uprising.

Dion's attempted justification for allowing the sale to go ahead fails to pass the smell test. "Almost all of our allies are selling weapons to Saudi Arabia. It's part of the world in which we are," he told CBC TV's Power and Politics. He went on to maintain that if Canada refused to sell arms to countries with unacceptable human rights records, it would have to considerably shorten the list of nations to which it will market weapons of war.

Well, isn't it about time some country took such a stand? Isn't it about time an industrialized nation such as Canada withdrew totally from the sale of arms to other countries? Shouldn't Canada devote its considerable energy and ingenuity to building peace, not war?

The prophet Isaiah 2,500 years ago spoke of a day when the Lord would "judge between the nations and shall arbitrate for many peoples; they shall beat their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not life up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore" (2.4).

This was not idle fantasy, but an announcement that the Lord's reign is a time without weapons and without war. It is a dream of a better tomorrow. Why, oh why, are we so slow? Why, after 2,500 years, have we not realized that dream? How can our political leaders still assuage their consciences with comments like "Almost all of our allies are selling weapons to Saudi Arabia"?