The Canadian government has reinstated arms sales to Saudi Arabia, renegotiating a multibillion-dollar contract for light armoured vehicles built by General Dynamics Land Systems. Canada’s Foreign Minister, Francois-Philippe Champagne, and Minister of Finance Bill Morneau argued that the changes to the contract would secure thousands of jobs, and that the new end user agreements would “ensure that the vehicles are used only for the stated purpose”.
The contract is worth $14 billion, but the number of vehicles hasn’t been disclosed. However in their statement the ministers said that the contract was “close to 50 percent” completed.
Human rights groups have said that the weapons will be used to perpetrate human rights violations. The deal was originally brokered in 2014 by a previous administration, and Justin Trudeau, the Canadian Prime Minister, has claimed that the country has been trying to find a way out of the deal. However, Anthony Fenton, a PhD candidate who studies Canad’s relations with countries in the gulf, told Al Jazeera that “Trudeau's government has been trying behind the scenes to 'normalise' relations with Saudi Arabia, in spite of their horrendous human rights record and leading role in the brutal war in Yemen… Now, under the cover of the chaos brought on by the global pandemic, they've elected to reopen the weapons exports' floodgates, placating Canada's arms industry, while likely calculating little pushback from the media or public."
The deal has wider international implications – the vehicles will be armed with turrets made by the Belgian company CMI Defence. Media sources in Belgium have described the contract – worth €3.2-billion - as the “contract of the century”.