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Canada accused of ignoring Saudi abuses in return for oil

August 9, 2019 at 3:40 pm

Prime Minister of Canada, Justin Trudeau in Buenos Aires, Argentina on 30 November 2018 [Murat Kaynak/Anadolu Agency]

Saudi oil has continued to flow into Canada as usual despite relations between the two turning rocky after Ottawa criticised Riyadh’s human rights record last year.

Details revealed by Tanker Tracker indicate that Saudi oil arrived in Canada as usual; a stance mocked as “oil for turning a blind eye deal.”

The independent online service, which tracks and reports shipments and storage of crude oil, traced 16 million barrels departing Saudi since mid-March 2019 for the Irving Oil Refinery (Canada’s largest) in St. John.

“Although #SaudiArabia and #Canada have had a diplomatic row since last year over human rights, we have tracked 16 million barrels depart Saudi since mid-March 2019 for the Irving Oil Refinery (Canada’s largest) in St. John. News sources point to an oil-for-arms deal,” tweeted TankerTracker.

The figures may come as a surprise to many Canadians. The Canadian government appeared to be one of the few countries’ to take a harsh line following the jailing of women activists this time last year and it seemed that the two countries were locking horns over human rights issues.

At one point Canada’s stance so enraged the Saudi’s that it expelled the Canadian ambassador, recalled its own ambassador and froze new trade relations with Ottawa and ordered thousands of foreign students to return, over what it described as “Canada’s interference in its internal affairs”.

READ: The US will proudly go to war with Iran for Saudi oil

Riyadh’s decision, which many ridiculed as an over-reaction was prompted by remarks made by Chrystia Freeland. In a tweet Ottawa’s foreign minister said: “Canada is gravely concerned about additional arrests of civil society and women’s rights activists in #SaudiArabia, including Samar Badawi. We urge the Saudi authorities to immediately release them and all other peaceful #humanrights activists.”

Over the past year, the impression has been that the two countries were in a steady road to recovery. “Canada is extending an olive branch to Saudi Arabia to avoid a prolonged diplomatic crisis that affected Canadian companies and Saudi students in Canadian universities,” Freeland said during an event hosted by the Council on Foreign Relations in New York in September.

Oil imports from Saudi Arabia are just one area which seem to be immune to diplomatic crises. Arms exports to Riyadh appear equally resilient. With elections only two months away Canadian civil society groups are demanding information on details of the arms deal between the royals in Saudi and their liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, whose support for progressive causes may have played a major factor in his election victory four years ago in 2015.

READ: Canada is ‘complicit’ in Saudi mass execution, say relatives of victims

Canadian sources reported that Trudeau is facing pressure from civil society groups to update Canadians before the election on his government’s review of a multibillion-dollar arms deal with Saudi Arabia. The review of the $15 billion contract to ship light armoured vehicles was launched following the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi inside the Saudi consulate in Turkey.

Toronto based paper CP24 reported that a letter had been sent this week to Trudeau from a dozen organizations saying that the public had a right to know the status of the review now that more than nine months had passed since the government first announced the probe.

It seems there is has been very little progress on this front despite claims by Trudeau that he was looking for a way out of big Saudi arms deal.