If one were to pen a book on the federal election campaign so far, a good title might be: “What the hell happened to Canada?”
From peeing in a cup, to saying it’s fine to smoke pot while pregnant, it’s been like one long episode of the Colbert Report.
Sadly, there’s no off button for us until October 19th and lost amid the salacious stories and never-ending partisan gaffes, have been issues that deserve a bit more examination.
Issues like where Stephen Harper stands on human rights. Or more succinctly, where he doesn’t stand up for them. Because depending on which country is the offender, he might simply overlook an appalling human rights record, or as happened in 2013,he might go as far as boycotting a meeting.
It was October 2013 when I took Harper to task for his hypocritical announcement that he was boycotting a gathering in Sri Lanka, because of “serious violations of human rights and international humanitarian standards during and after the civil war.” http://lailayuile.com/2013/10/08/he-wears-a-mask-and-his-face-grows-to-fit-it-george-orwell
‘Because I know that the Privy Council office reads here frequently, I would like to point out that it’s really hard to take Harper’s momentary bouts of concern over human rights in other countries seriously, because of his abrupt flip-flop on his new BFF, the Chinese government .
In many ways, China’s record on human rights is getting worse, not better. Increasingly, targets are not only religious minorities such as the Falun Gong, but of political activists and their families.’
In fact the stance he took on Sri Lanka was one to be admired and very much in keeping with Canada’s past reputation as a peacekeeping country with wide arms when it comes to humanitarian aid. Which makes his failure to show that same concern about other countries, all that more appalling.
Take for instance, Saudi Arabia, a country with an appalling human rights track record. https://www.hrw.org/world-report/2015/country-chapters/saudi-arabia
In the news today as the UN and Human Rights groups call on Saudi Arabia to halt the beheading and crucifixion of man found guilty of a variety of crimes. http://www.cnn.com/2015/09/23/middleeast/saudi-arabia-ali-al-nimr-execution/ And this is not the first crucifixion to take place by far, nor is it likely to be the last.
But that is not the only cruel and unusual punishment those who break laws in Saudi Arabia face. Ask the wife of jailed Saudi blogger Raif Badawi:
“It’s a life of waiting,” said Ensaf Haidar, whose husband, Raif Badawi, a blogger who has been imprisoned in Saudi Arabia for almost four years.
Haidar, who lives in exile in Canada with their three young children, is in Washington this week, meeting with members of Congress and officials at the State Department trying to persuade the U.S. government to put more effort into seeking her husband’s release.
Badawi, 31, was sentenced in 2014 to ten years in prison and 1,000 lashes, along with a fine of more than $250,000, for criticizing Saudi Arabia’s powerful religious and political leaders on his Saudi Liberal Network Web site.
“He is just a blogger,” said Haidar, 36, a tiny woman whose speech is careful and contained, and without any trace of anger. “He has been away from his kids and his family for four years, and there is no valid reason for that. He’s just a very peaceful writer.”
Badawi received the first 50 of his lashes in January in a public square outside a mosque in the port city of Jiddah. A video posted on YouTube showed him standing silently as a police officer struck his back and legs with a wooden cane and onlookers cheered “Allahu akbar,” or “God is great.” Saudi officials said the lashings would continue, 50 every Friday for the following 19 weeks.
The world erupted in fury and remaining floggings were postponed, although Badawi remains imprisoned for expressing his views and criticism of Saudi leaders.
Considering all of this, one would think Harper would be as eager to flex our Canadian influence and take a leadership role in Saudi Arabia, as he did in boycotting the meeting in Sri Lanka over their human rights record. But no. Instead, we did business with them.
And not just any kind of business – a $15 billion arms deal that is shrouded in secrecy and flew right under the radar of most Canadians. To this day there are more questions than answers and as we head into an election, Canadians need to think about Canada’s role in international affairs as a supplier.
“The head of the Canadian government agency that brokered a controversial deal to supply $15-billion worth of armoured fighting vehicles to Saudi Arabia sees the Middle East as “a strategic region” for Canadian arms sales.
Martin Zablocki, the president and chief executive of Canadian Commercial Corp., recently told an Abu Dhabi-based newspaper that he considers the union of Arab states in the Persian Gulf one of the hottest markets in which to sell military wares.”
“…federal rules oblige Ottawa to examine whether arms shipments to countries with poor human-rights records, such as Saudi Arabia, would endanger the local population.
The Department of Foreign Affairs, by its own stated rules, is required to screen requests to export military goods to countries “whose governments have a persistent record of serious violations of the human rights of their citizens.” Among other things, it must obtain assurances that “there is no reasonable risk that the goods might be used against the civilian population.”
Ottawa, however, has stunned rights advocates by refusing to divulge how it will justify this massive sale under its strict export-control regime. It has said it will not release its analysis of how the sale complies with the regime.
As an example of how light-armoured vehicles might enable human-rights abuses, activists allege it was Canadian-made fighting vehicles that Saudi Arabia sent into Bahrain in 2011 to help quell a democratic uprising. The Canadian government doesn’t deny this happened. It only says it doesn’t believe the vehicles were used to beat back protests.”
Ottawa is contractually obliged to keep secret the details of a controversial $15-billion arms sale to Saudi Arabia – a transaction that Stephen Harper personally assured the country’s monarch will be guaranteed by the Canadian government, documents say.
Foreign Affairs e-mails obtained by The Globe and Mail under access-to-information law indicate the Saudis have made excess publicity about the sale of armoured fighting vehicles a deal-breaker.
Officials were scrambling behind the scenes in January, after media coverage of the arms deal, to determine the consequences of publicly releasing the terms of the Saudi contract.
Aliya Mawani, a Canadian diplomat based in Riyadh, the capital, told Foreign Affairs colleagues on Jan. 21 that “we [the government] would be breaking the terms of the contract” with Saudi Arabia if details were made public.
“The contract is under a Canadian government guarantee in terms of fulfilment,” Ms. Mawani wrote in a Jan. 21 exchange with colleagues on why Ottawa couldn’t make the terms public.
“This was confirmed in writing by our Prime Minister in his letters to the King,” she said, speaking of Mr. Harper and the late Saudi King Abdullah.
A cloak of secrecy surrounds this agreement, first announced in 2014, with Ottawa refusing to divulge any substantial information on the vehicles Canada is selling to the Saudi regime – or how it justifies the sale to a nation known for human-rights abuses.
And I am not the first to question this. Derrick O’Keefe raised the alarm on Harpers hypocrisy in February 2014 when the deal was first announced: https://canadiandimension.com/articles/view/massive-canadian-saudi-export-deal-exposes-conservative-hypocrisy
Saudi Arabia isn’t the only country under question that Canada has done deals with. Justin Ling did an excellent piece in Vice back in January 2015 based on the Canadian governments own data. And the list of http://www.vice.com/en_ca/read/data-shows-canada-upping-arms-sales-to-human-rights-abusers-786
” Ottawa may have been none too happy with now-ousted Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi, but the Canadian government didn’t have much of a problem increasing weapons shipments to his government by 182,819 percent.
It’s all part of how Canada’s military exports have re-oriented in recent years, as more and more Canada-made weaponry heads into shaky territory. When those less-than-stable regimes eventually crumble, like Morsi’s did, figuring out where those Canadian-made armaments end up is a real crapshoot.
These figures, which cover 2012 and 2013, show that Canada is hiking weapons shipments to its NATO allies—England, Italy, Germany—but also to less stable nations with questionable moral records.”
“Also: the government only publishes this data every two years without any stated reason. So you’ll have to stay tuned until 2016 to see just how much Canadian military exports are ramping up—given that Ottawa is trying to knock down barriers to ship arms to a half dozen other nations, expect the numbers to be pretty high.”
There is a national discussion to be had here and it is long overdue.
Are Canadians comfortable with the sale of arms and military goods to countries with questionable stability that offer no assurance where those goods will end up?
Are Canadians comfortable with the sale of arms and military goods to countries with appalling human rights,and women’s rights records?
And most of all, are Canadians comfortable with a government that can so easily pick and choose which human rights violations we should stand up against, and which ones we as a country, will overlook?
They say money talks and by the looks of Harper’s human rights hypocrisy, I would say that’s accurate.