Despite condemning Saudi Arabia’s recent mass executions and raising concerns about human rights abuses, the Canadian government said this week it is moving forward with a controversial $15 billion weapons sale to the Gulf state.
Reportedly Canada’s largest-ever arms export contract, the deal was confirmed amid growing condemnation of ongoing western support for Saudi Arabia, despite mounting evidence of atrocities committed by the state, from neighboring Yemen to its own soil.
The country’s latest execution of 47 people, including of Shia cleric and protest leader Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr, has touched off a dangerous geopolitical rift in which Saudi Arabia and its allies are squaring off against Iran. The state killings have been widely denounced for violating the most basic due process—and employing the death penalty to crush dissent.
In fact, Canada’s own foreign affairs minister, Stéphane Dion, expressed concern.
“Canada opposes the death penalty and decries the execution of 47 individuals in Saudi Arabia,” Dion said on Sunday. “In the wake of these executions, we reiterate our call to the Government of Saudi Arabia to protect human rights, respect peaceful expressions of dissent and ensure fairness in judicial proceedings.”
However, just a day later, that same office confirmed that it will green-light the mega-arms sale. According to the Canadian paper Globe and Mail, Dion’s spokesperson, Adam Barrett, said on Monday, “A private company is delivering the goods according to a signed contract with the government of Saudi Arabia. The government of Canada has no intention of cancelling that contract.”
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