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Image of destroyed Canada military vehicle used by Saudi reignites debate on arms deals

October 4, 2019 at 3:27 pm

A screen grab from a video released by Yemen’s Houthi movement allegedly shows two Saudi light armoured vehicles (LAVs) destroyed by the group in an August offensive. Unverified reports identify them as Canadian-made LAVs

After footage was released by Yemen’s Houthi movement following the group’s cross-border operation against Saudi forces, still images began to circulate appearing to show captured or destroyed Canadian-made light armoured vehicles (LAVs).

Though it is not clear which side of the Saudi-Yemen border the vehicles were captured, the revelation has triggered fresh calls for Ottawa to cancel its $15 billion arms deal with Riyadh – to provide the kingdom with the latest models of the LAVs.

The video footage shows at least five damaged or destroyed LAVs produced by General Dynamics Land Systems – Canada (GDLS-C) along with other armoured vehicles and seized munitions. Experts have identified the Canadian vehicles as the LAV-25 model.

Radio Canada International mentioned that former MP and University of Montreal law professor, Daniel Turp, who in 2016 launched legal action to force Ottawa to cancel its export permit for the LAVs, said arms sales to Saudi Arabia are inconsistent with Canada’s legal obligations under the UN Arms Trade Treaty, especially given the evidence of their use by Saudi forces in Yemen.

Under Canada’s amended Export and Import Permits Act (EIPA), the minister of foreign affairs has to assess if the export of arms would undermine peace and security, or could be used to commit or facilitate serious violation of international humanitarian or human rights law or be used against women and children.

READ: MSF Yemen condemns strikes against medical centres

In 2014, the previous Conservative government agreed to provide Saudi Arabia with more than 700 LAVs, which was approved by the Liberal government two years later. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau last year threatened to freeze the arms contract with the Saudis if it had been found that the weapons were being misused.

Canada has previously been accused of ignoring Saudi’s human rights abuses in exchange for oil supplies after it was revealed that Saudi oil continued to flow into Ottowa as usual despite relations between the two turning rocky following Canada’s criticism of Riyadh’s human rights record last year.

READ: Western countries raise concerns over Saudi rights record

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 demanded 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.

One 2016 article by Canada’s the Globe and Mail, mentioned how the Saudi Arabian National Guard posted photos on its Twitter account in November 2015 showing that it moved earlier models of LAV-25s to Najran, with their distinctive triangular front corners with mounted headlights above the triangles.

According to Global Affairs Canada statistics, Saudi Arabia was the largest non-US export destination for Canada’s defence industry in 2018, receiving approximately $1.2 billion in Canadian military exports.