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Canada Defends Record $11bn Arms Sale to Saudi Arabia in Court
The Canadian government is fighting a court battle against an anti-war activist seeking to derail a record arms deal with Saudi Arabia. The activist argued the weapons could be used to violate human rights, including in the Saudi war on Yemen.
The deal for light armored vehicles [LAVs] is the largest advanced manufacturing export contract in Canadian history, the Globe and Mail reported. Estimated at almost 15 billion Canadian dollars [US$11 billion], it dwarfs any other sale of arms ever made by the country. It was negotiated by the conservative government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper and endorsed by his liberal successor, Justin Trudeau, whose government sealed the contract in April.
The deal was challenged in court this week by law professor and former politician Daniel Turp. He argued that the delivery of weapons to Saudi Arabia, which is engaged in a bloody camping to quash a revolution in Yemen on behalf of the country's ousted president, may violate Canada's commitments to human rights.
"To give arms to a country that uses them to violate human rights is to contribute to that violation," Andre Lesperance, a former federal lawyer representing Turp, told a federal court in Montreal. "It's beyond willful blindness."
The government countered by saying there was no evidence that Saudi Arabia had ever used previously-purchased Canadian LAVs against civilians. But it hinted that Ottawa did not discount the possibility that the armored vehicles may end up being used in Yemen.
The Globe and Mail earlier published footage of armored vehicles similar to the LAVs used by Saudi Arabia to suppress protests in its Eastern Province.
The Yemeni intervention has been criticized by numerous rights groups for the large number of civilian casualties, with some accusing the Saudis of committing war crimes.
During the court hearings, Ottawa also challenged Turp's right to question the contract under the Geneva Conventions, which regulate humanitarian aspects of warfare.
Source: News Agencies, Edited by website team
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