Canadians have a problem with the Saudi arms deal, and Global Affairs Minister Stéphane Dion doesn’t understand why. “Where is your problem? I don’t understand,” he asked reporters last week.
The man is confused. His confusion is reasonable, in fact. There isn’t merely one problem with the government’s handling of the deal. There are 20 problems.
Dion, who helped create the problem (sic), now wants to know what the problem (sic) is. Allow me, then, to explain.
1. The government charges ahead to sell one of the world’s most notorious human rights abusers $15-billion worth of arms. This, a moral problem, is serious enough. It’s not isolated.
2. The deal seems to violate Canada’s own export rules. This suggests the Canadian government doesn’t respect Canadian regulations.
3. The deal may violate an arms trade treaty the government has promised to sign. This suggests the government doesn’t respect the diplomatic practice of honouring such commitments they’ve said they’ll make.
4. Canadians tend to oppose the deal, but support the Liberals; the Liberals campaigned on multilateral principles that the deal undermines, but support the deal. This suggests disrespect for Canadian opinion, unless, of course, Canadian opinion favours Liberal election wins, in which case Canadian opinion is inspired and sacrosanct.
5. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau justifies the deal by calling machine-gun-wielding armoured vehicles “jeeps.” This suggests he’s ignorant about the nature of Canada’s biggest arms sale; or he’s ignorant about the nature of jeeps; or he’s glib about war.
6. Dion justifies the deal by claiming it’s done; then Dion authorizes the export permits, proving it wasn’t done. This suggests Dion doesn’t know the meaning of the word “done.”
7. The Liberals say the Conservatives started it. This suggests the government is a five-year-old child.
8. The Liberals say the NDP would do the same if it could. This suggests the government is a smug five-year-old child.
9. The Liberals say another country would sell Saudi Arabia the weapons if Canada didn’t. This suggests the government, smug five-year-old child that it is, didn’t listen to its mother when she asked whether it would jump off a cliff if its friends jumped too.
10. The government calls Saudi Arabia a friend. This suggests it has the world’s worst taste in friends.
11. The government protests that it can’t cancel the contract and risk its reputation. This suggests Canada’s trading reputation trumps its human rights reputation.
12. The government protests that it can’t cancel a contract “as a matter of principle.” This suggests that contractual obligations trump human rights obligations.
13. The government protests that cancelling the contract “could” mean financial penalties. This suggests hypothetical financial penalties trump actual human rights.
14. The government protests that cancelling the contract would jeopardize student exchange programs that would “likely” promote — wait for it — human rights. This suggests the government is insane.
15. The government insists that if Saudi Arabia does take some LAVs on a murder spree, the export permits will be revoked. This suggests the government doesn’t understand the unidirectional nature of death.
16. When assessing whether there’s “no reasonable risk” that a human rights abuser will use the arms to abuse human rights, Global Affairs doesn’t consult human rights agencies. This suggests the government doesn’t respect experts as much as it claims.
17. Global Affairs hasn’t been immediately forthcoming about its expert-bereft assessments. This suggests the government doesn’t respect transparency as much as it claims.
18. Global Affairs says it hopes Saudi Arabia can use LAVs in Yemen. Yemen — where Saudi Arabia targets hospitals, schools, markets and homes. This suggests Global Affairs doesn’t know what a Yemen is.
19. Global Affairs says Saudi Arabia says it will play nice in war. This suggests Global Affairs doesn’t know what credibility is. Or Yemen.
20. Trudeau, neglecting to mention that lives depend on cancelling the deal, says jobs depend on proceeding with the deal. And this singularly honest admission suggests the government is undertaking an immoral, unpopular, secretive, stupid, possibly illegal, and maybe deadly jobs creation program.
There are the problems. Where’s the responsible conviction?