Canadians protest arms sale to Saudi Arabia in ongoing row over ‘perpetuating’ war in Yemen

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Canada’s role in the Saudi led war in Yemen has sparked fresh protest in the province of Ontario as members of World Beyond War and Labour Against the Arms Trade blocked trucks outside a transportation firm that ships light armoured vehicles (LAV) to Saudi Arabia.

Demonstrators blocked Paddock Transport International trucks in Hamilton, a city about 70 kilometres west of Toronto, for a few hours yesterday as part of a global day of action against the ongoing war in Yemen.

The protest group condemned the firm in a press release saying that it’s aiding “the brutal Saudi-led war in Yemen, which has killed almost a quarter of a million people.” It’s also calling on Ottawa to end arms exports to Saudi Arabia.

Simon Black, a professor at Brock University and lead organiser with Labour Against the Arms Trade who participated in the protest, told Al Jazeera: “We’re saying very clearly to any company who is complicit in arms exports to Saudi Arabia and therefore complicit in the war on Yemen and the humanitarian crisis there, that there will be economic costs that you will face.”

READ: Image of destroyed Canada military vehicle used by Saudi reignites debate on arms deals

Ottawa’s role in the Saudi led campaign backed by the West has been sharply criticised. In September a UN panel of independent experts monitoring the conflict and investigating possible war crimes by the combatants publicly named Canada as one of the countries that was “perpetuating the conflict” in Yemen by selling arms to Saudi Arabia.

Around 233,000 people have been killed in the war to date, according to the United Nations, which warned in December that the window to prevent famine in Yemen was narrowing, as many faced record highs of acute food insecurity. Eighty per cent of Yemenis are in need of humanitarian assistance, the UN says.

While Canada’s sale of arms to Saudi Arabia dates back to the more Hawkish government under then-Prime Minister Stephen Harper, the more liberal minded Justin Trudeau has not reversed the policy of his predecessor.

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Weeks after the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi by a team of assassins allegedly dispatched by Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, Trudeau said his government was ready to freeze arms deal to Riyadh. Two months later it said that Ottawa was looking for a way out of the deal.

While the liberal government temporarily froze approvals of new arms export permits for Saudi Arabia pending a review, the suspension was lifted in April 2020, with Canada citing “significant improvements” in the deal, which it said would secure thousands of Canadian jobs.

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