Hypocritical judgement of standard actions
By Cazzy Lewchuk, Opinions Editor
Justin Trudeau and his government have upheld a contract originally placed by the previous Harper administration to sell weapons to Saudi Arabia. The $15-billion 15-year deal allows for Saudi Arabia to buy tanks from Canadian military contractors for use in defence. Saudi Arabia has a bad track record of human rights: Their Sharia law leads to torture and executions of protesting citizens, or those who attempt to dismantle the state.
The Trudeau administration is committed to human rights in Canada and around the world. While there is—and always will be—a lot of work to do, they have a clear track record of optimism and commitment. I believe Trudeau does not actually support Sharia law, nor is his genuine commitment to human rights invalidated by this deal.
Canada is a large military power, and does business with a lot of countries. It is a fundamental part of our own economy and part of the global trade sector. Many of the things exchanged are unpleasant things—arms designed to kill people who don’t agree with whatever country may have control of the weapons. In a perfect world, they are only used on mutual enemies, but we all know this isn’t the case. We can hope that the weapons are not used for evil, and that acts of evil committed by the Saudis are not committed with Canadian technology. It doesn’t make the actions right, and it’s not something we should actively encourage, but it’s hard in a complex geopolitical military alliance to discourage this kind of thing.
The criticism of Trudeau also seems hypocritical, considering that doing business with Saudi Arabia is something most world leaders do. Canada has been selling arms to them for 30 years, but it’s only now we are suddenly criticized for it. In fact, the contract was previously drafted by the Harper government. Trudeau argues that they were stuck with the deal already instituted, and that backing out would have devastating effects on Canada’s relationship with Saudi Arabia overall.
Trudeau is actively campaigning for human rights in Canada and beyond. Holding his nose and doing business with a divisive country does not counter any of his human rights campaigns. He still cares about Indigenous people’s plights in Canada; he still encourages other countries to engage in fundamental human rights, and discourages the opposite.
Countries like China use Trudeau’s deal as a bargaining tool when he questions their own human rights record. It’s ridiculous that his economic condemning of Saudi Arabia means he isn’t allowed to discuss the problem in other areas. It’s hypocritical, it’s petty, and it’s effectively blackmail on a global economic scale.
All world leaders, especially those who lead powerful militaries, have to make morally-grey decisions. They sign papers and issue orders that lead to deaths—far too often being collateral civilians. We get one world leader who has to make these difficult choices, and we criticize him for trying to stand up on human rights in other areas in the process. I’m not a fan of Trudeau’s decision, but I understand and support the reasons behind it.