Organizers with Labour Against the Arms trade have staged a ‘die-in’ at the campaign office of Chrystia Freeland in Toronto.

“This is the largest arms deal in Canadian history, with one of the world’s worst violators in human rights, and makes Canada complicit in the what the UN has called the ‘world’s worst humanitarian crisis’ in Yemen,” organizer Simon Black told Ricochet by email before the action.

“Yet it has hardly been discussed in this campaign. We’re attempting to change that today. This can and must be an election issue,” added Black.

Here is the full letter delivered to Freeland, the Liberal government’s foreign minister, at today’s action.

End Canada’s complicity in war crimes

The Honourable Chrystia Freeland
Minister of Foreign Affairs
Ottawa, Ontario

October 17, 2019

Dear Minister Freeland,

Saudi Arabia and its coalition partners are waging war in Yemen. The war has plunged the country into what the United Nations calls “the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.”

According to a recent UN report, approximately 100,000 Yemenis have died since the beginning of 2016. Hospitals, schools, markets and mosques are common targets for Saudi coalition airstrikes. Two thirds of the Yemeni population require humanitarian support or protection, 17 million are food insecure, three million have fled their homes and 14.5 million require access to safe drinking water. And as UN Women has found, women and girls bear the brunt of this devastating situation. A 2018 report of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights concluded that violations and crimes under international law have occurred and continue to be perpetrated in Yemen.

Canada is complicit in the war in Yemen. The export of made-in-Canada light armoured vehicles (LAVs) to Saudi Arabia, an approximately $15-billion contract originally signed by the Conservative government of Stephen Harper, is now proceeding under export permits approved by the Liberal government of Justin Trudeau.

New export permits for arms shipments to Saudi Arabia have reportedly been suspended pending an indefinite review by the Trudeau government following the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi. But according to recent data from Statistics Canada over a billion dollars worth of armoured fighting vehicles have been exported through the port of Saint John, N.B., to Saudi Arabia in 2019 alone.

There is credible evidence that Canadian weapons sold to Saudi Arabia are being used in the devastating war in Yemen. The Saudi-led coalition continues to commit serious violations of international humanitarian and human rights law in Yemen, and Saudi Arabia also has a persistent record of serious violations of the human rights of its own citizens.

Canadians expect their government to be a voice for peace and human rights. Should your party form the next government, we demand that you cancel the Canada-Saudi arms deal. Canadians do not want a government that is complicit in the war in Yemen, complicit in the violation of international humanitarian law, and very likely, complicit in war crimes.

Further, we demand the next government invest in arms conversion for all workers impacted by the cancellation of the deal, converting arms manufacturing capacities to green, socially productive ends. Canadian workers want to use their skills to fight climate change, not contribute to death, destruction and displacement abroad.


Labour Against the Arms Trade

Canadian Voice of Women for Peace