Sunday, May 18, 2014

Canada's mysterious silence on human rights abuses in Saudi Arabia

A Saudi court sentenced Raif Badawi to 1,000 lashes and ten years in prison last week. His crime was starting a web-site that invited open debate about politics and religion.

I've been eagerly clicking on the website of the Department of Foreign Affairs, waiting for the Minister to announce his alarm or condemnation or at least the fact that he is appalled. And even if the matter is too trifling for Mr. Baird himself to comment on, perhaps a few words from the very junior Minister of Religious Freedom, Andrew Bennett, might be appropriate?

Alas, this gross violation of human rights and religious freedom has gone completely unnoticed by Ottawa. In fact, you'd have to go all the back to February to find a mention of Saudi Arabia in the daily press releases from Foreign Affairs. Here it is;

Largest Advanced Manufacturing Export Win in Canada’s History

Manufacturing sector workers and firms to benefit from creation of thousands of jobs across southern Ontario and every region of Canada
February 14, 2014 - London, Ontario - Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada
The Honourable Ed Fast, Minister of International Trade, and Danny Deep, Vice President, General Dynamics Land Systems-Canada, announced today a historic multi-billion dollar contract win for vehicles and associated equipment, training and support services.
The announcement was made in London, Ontario, where the light armoured vehicles will be designed and manufactured and which will become the epicentre of a cross-Canada supply chain directly benefiting more than 500 local Canadian firms.
This 14-year contract will create and sustain more than 3,000 jobs each year in Canada, with southern Ontario accounting for approximately 40 percent of the supply base.
Facilitated by the Canadian Commercial Corporation (CCC), the Government of Canada’s international government-to-government contracting organization, the contract is with Saudi Arabia, a priority market under the government’s new Global Markets Action Plan.
Mystery solved! A "historic multi-billion dollar contract" was signed last February for Canada to provide thousands of armoured cars to the Saudi military! Ironically, that was also the month that our friends in Riyadh officially made criticism of their rule a terrorism offence!
Note how any mention of Saudi Arabia is limited to a single reference in the last sentence. Note also that the Harper gang considers Saudi a "priority market".
I guess we can stop looking to John Baird or Andrew Bennett for any expression of outrage or alarm over the Raif Badawi travesty.

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