Trudeau, Harper, Saudi Arabia, and Real Change™

Image: A big-ass tank with like eight wheels and two armed soldiers sticking out the top in a sandy-looking locale. (Image credit: General Dynamics Land Systems Canada) NOTE: this may not be the actual model of Light Artillery Vehicle GDLS is selling to Saudi Arabia with Canadian governmental mediation and approval; details are sketchy, but the Globe and Mail reports that whatever they look like, they’re gonna be deadly.

 This one is from the prosaically named Department of Plus ça change, plus c’est le meme chose.

From the Globe and Mail, January 7, 2016:

The Canadian government is refusing to say whether it obtained assurances that light armoured vehicles being sold to Saudi Arabia in a massive $15-billion deal would not be used against the Saudi people – a key guarantee required by federal export controls when arms are destined for countries with a “persistent record of serious violations of the human rights of their citizens.”

This controversial 2014 agreement to ship made-in-Canada light armoured vehicles to the Mideast country is coming under increased scrutiny after much-publicized incidents of torture and mistreatment by Saudi authorities…

The government is required to demonstrate “there is no reasonable risk that the goods might be used against the civilian population” before it approves applications for export permits to countries with persistent records of violating the rights of their citizens.

Ottawa, however, won’t say whether it has determined this to be the case with the light armoured vehicles (LAVs) heading to Saudi Arabia.

“For reasons of commercial confidentiality, the Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development does not comment on specific applications,” François Lasalle, spokesman for the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, said in an e-mail.

I wrote last week about the Liberal government’s willingness to proceed with this major arms deal with Saudi Arabia, notwithstanding the horrific spate of public beheadings the House of Saud has conducted so far this year.

This is a story that’s really gained speed in the last week, with many major news outlets challenging the government on this extremely questionable decision.

And it’s wonderful to see such detailed and aggressive coverage of this.

Except that the quote above isn’t actually from this week. I lied to you.

(Sorry.)

The quote above is actually from January 21, 2015 – almost one full year ago – and describes the Harper government’s reaction to a spate of atrocities committed by the Saudi regime early last year.

This is what the Globe and Mail had to say on January 7, 2016:

[The] government is refusing to make public a recently completed assessment of the state of human rights in Saudi Arabia even as it endures criticism for proceeding with a $15-billion deal to ship weaponized armoured vehicles to the Mideast country.

Saudi Arabia, notorious for its treatment of women, dissidents and offenders, became the focus of international condemnation this month…

[T]he government told The Globe and Mail that its latest analysis of the Saudis’ recent human rights record is confidential. This study is the first assessment the department of Global Affairs has drawn up on Saudi Arabia in a number of years.

“A report on Saudi Arabia has been prepared for 2015 as part of the department’s annual process of producing human rights reports on numerous countries. This document is intended for internal Government of Canada use only, and, as such, will not be made public,” said François Lasalle, a spokesman for Global Affairs Canada…

The government is also refusing to release any information on how Ottawa will justify the export of armoured vehicles under Canada’s export control regime.

“For reasons of commercial confidentiality, Global Affairs Canada does not comment on specific export permit applications,” Mr. Lasalle said.

The biggest thing that’s changed on this file with the transition in government is the name of the department for which Mr. Lasalle works. His ability to fend off pertinent and necessary questions with vague gestures at confidentiality remains intact, as do his superiors’ complete willingness to look the other way when the Saudis commit human rights atrocities, which they do on a regular basis.

These two Globe articles, written nearly a year apart, are so stunningly similar that, if quoted such that the names and party affiliations of the government officials and the specifics of the Saudi atrocities are omitted, you could swap out last year’s for this year’s and no one would notice the difference.

So for all those folks who naively bought into Trudeau’s promises of “Sunny ways” and “real change” and transparency – this is what you voted for. This complete and total continuation of the Harper Conservative foreign policy, this complete unwillingness to be transparent, this utter interchangeability with the government you worked so friggin’ hard to defeat.

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