Fellow comrades of the revolutionary struggle. It is with great outrage and indignation that I report to you the treacherous and criminal actions of the Canadian government. Once again, we find ourselves facing the grim reality of Canadian imperialism and its destructive impact on the world’s oppressed peoples. From Palestine and Yemen to Canada itself, the Canadian government is complicit in the ongoing atrocities committed by the forces of colonialism and capitalism.
I cannot help but feel deep frustration at the hypocrisy, of which Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government is a prime example. On the one hand, Canada claims a history of standing up for justice and peace. Still, on the other hand, we continue to profit from the support of and sale of weapons to countries engaged in horrific acts of violence and aggression.
Despite the obliviousness of most Western audiences, even as we speak, one of the worst humanitarian catastrophes of the twenty-first century is taking place in Yemen. Since the Saudi-led coalition invaded Yemen in 2015, the country has been devastated by unrelenting violence, which has taken the lives of over 19,000 people, and caused over 200,000 deaths indirectly as the result of causes like food insecurity and lack of access to health services. Saudi Arabia and its allies invaded Yemen intending to replace the Houthi forces with the previously overthrown Saudi-puppet government of Mansur Hadi. In pursuit of its aims, it has not shied away from committing war crimes, including the bombing of hospitals and schools, the use of child soldiers, the use of starvation as a weapon of war, and instituting a brutal blockade on the country.
Yet, the Canadian government, one of the top exporters of arms to Saudi Arabia for years, also has blood on their hands as they continue turning a blind eye to the suffering of innocent civilians caught in the crossfire. In defiance of their lip service to human rights and progressive values, Trudeau’s government refused to terminate a $15 billion arms deal with the Saudis, which was not just a violation of the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT), which Canada became a party to in 2019, but also a breach of the basic principles of human rights and dignity. A report by Amnesty International Canada and Project Ploughshares has exposed the Canadian government’s blatant violation of international law.
The government’s Final Report on the sale of arms to Saudi Arabia, which we know is nothing but a whitewash, claims that arming Saudi Arabia will “protect the regional balance against the expansionist policies of Iran.” This is despite the fact that there is no explanation as to how arming Saudi Arabia will curb Iran’s supposed nuclear ambitions nor how Israel’s stockpile of nuclear warheads affects peace in the region. The Final Report also mentions that Saudi Arabia “has also been a key partner to Canada and its allies in efforts to resolve the Syrian civil war and to contain AQAP [Al Qaeda of the Arab Peninsula] and Daesh.” Saudi Arabia has been one of the main contributors to the Syrian war through its funding of extremist proxies such as Al Nusra, which is an affiliate of Al Qaeda, as well as directly arming and funding AQAP in the war in Yemen.
“Peace and stability” being stand-ins for “Western controlled”. It is taken for granted that the expansionist policies of Saudi Arabia, which have aimed to install puppet governments in Yemen and Syria, contribute to peace and stability. In contrast, the opposite is true of Iran, which is deemed a threat to peace and stability.
The Canadian government continues to send a significant amount of weapons to Saudi Arabia, despite the widely criticised $15 billion deal to export militarised vehicles to the brutal and despotic dictatorship. The fact that Canadian weapons exports to Saudi Arabia accounted for 67% of Canada’s total non-US arms exports in 2020 is a damning indictment of the Trudeau government’s priorities. In 2021 alone, Canada exported $1.7 billion worth of arms to Saudi Arabia, up from $1.3 billion in 2020; the bulk of these arms are Light Armored Vehicles (LAVs) manufactured in Ontario by General Dynamics Land Systems-Canada.
According to a secret-seven-page document recently obtained by The Breach, the government believes that arming the Saudis is crucial to maintaining Saudi Arabia as an “integral and valued security partner.” The analysis notes that the Saudis are a “principal guarantor” of affordable oil for Western countries and have become an “important market for Canadian companies,” including infrastructure contracts for SNC-Lavalin and Bombardier.
The government analysis makes a strong geo-political case favouring arming Saudi Arabia. It asserts that Canada and its key partners, the United States and the United Kingdom, see Saudi Arabia as a “major security and strategic partner.” The regime is a “principal guarantor of global energy security and ensures access to affordable energy essential for economic growth in the West,” it notes. The document also acknowledges the regime’s “problematic” human rights record, including a brutal war on neighbouring Yemen that has taken hundreds of thousands of lives. While the deal was initially signed by the Conservative government of Stephen Harper in 2014, the Trudeau government’s Foreign Affairs Minister Stephane Dion approved the sale of LAVs to Saudi Arabia following the election of the Liberal government.
The Canadian government temporarily halted arms exports to Saudi Arabia following the assassination of Jamal Khashoggi in 2018. However, this only applied to new permits, and Canadian arms exports to Saudi Arabia increased by 111% in the following period. The freeze on arms exports was lifted in 2020 after the Canadian government concluded in its Final Report that there is no risk of Canadian-made weapons being used to facilitate war crimes in Yemen, despite damning footage from 2019 indicating the use of Canadian LAVs by Saudi forces. The document obtained by The Breach is an annexe to the 2020 report entitled “Additional Policy Considerations” that was not released by the government. According to the government analysis, Western countries have “invested a lot financially and militarily in the relationship over the decades” and want to keep Saudi Arabia “oriented to a Western rules-based worldview.”
This cannot be allowed to continue. Canada must take responsibility for its actions and end its complicity in the Yemen conflict. The Ploughshares and Amnesty report recommends that Canada fully incorporate the ATT into law, revoke arms permits to the KSA, and suspend the issuance of new permits. The Group of Eminent International and Regional Experts on Yemen (GEEY) has concluded that supplying arms to any party in the Yemen conflict is helping to “perpetuate the conflict and the suffering of the population.” Canada must live up to its obligations under the ATT and end this disastrous conflict.
Recent efforts to court Qatar as a potential client for Canadian-made weapons of war further belies their representation as reluctant bystanders to the Saudi exports, as the government is actively lobbying for a new deal with a similarly antidemocratic regime. International Development Minister Harjit Sajjan was instructed to lobby for a potential agreement between the Canadian division of General Dynamics Land Systems (GDLS) and the Qatari military ahead of his visit to the FIFA World Cup in Doha last year, highlighting the Canadian government’s desire to strengthen diplomatic ties with authoritarian states in the region. The government’s interest in arming Qatar was unsurprising, given that Qatar was added to Canada’s Automatic Firearms Country Control List (AFCCL) in August 2022, suggesting that a significant deal was being discussed.
LAVs are versatile and have been used by governments to quash domestic unrest, as seen in Bahrain during the 2011 and 2012 protests. Qatar has a track record of meddling in other regional conflicts, such as Libya and Syria. It also has a dire domestic human rights record. The Qatari state criminalises same-sex relationships, stifles critical voices, and maintains laws that require women to seek permission from “male guardians” to make fundamental life decisions. The briefing note prepared for Sajjan’s meeting with Qatar’s foreign affairs minister and deputy prime minister explicitly stated that Canada was pleased that GDLS was interested in working with the Qatari military to supply light-armoured vehicles and other opportunities. Yet, concerns about advancing human rights were absent in the list of objectives laid out in Sajjan’s strategic overview for his visit to Qatar.
This is alarming, given Qatar’s rising militarisation, which saw a 311% spike in arms imports between 2013 to 2017 and 2018 to 2022, making it the third-largest importer in the world between 2018 and 2022. Sajjan’s briefing note ominously stated that Qatar’s military modernisation is partly motivated by a desire to “develop comparable capabilities to Western nations, especially for multinational deployments and interoperability.”. This assessment reads like diplomatic speak for the type of foreign interventions that have led to massive bloodshed and destabilisation in the region. The Trudeau government’s pursuit of arms deals is vital to gaining political leverage and regional power projection, despite the profits of the arms industry. This clearly indicates the continued Canadian commitment to prioritising the military-industrial base, power and profits over people.
Let us not forget about Israel, another country to which Canada sells arms. As revolutionaries, we must demand an immediate end to all military trade with Israel. As we speak, Israeli forces are carrying out a violent campaign against the Palestinian people, killing and injuring countless civilians, including children. The situation in Gaza is nothing short of a humanitarian crisis. Yet, Canada continues to support Israel by providing them with the means to continue their violence.
For decades, the Palestinian people have been subject to the Israeli regime’s brutal occupation of their lands, which has been armed and supported by Western powers, including Canada. In recent years, illegal settlements have only increased, leading to violence and displacement of the indigenous population. As the world begins to recognise the right of Palestine to exist as a state, it is time for Canada to stop exporting arms to Israel and contributing to the oppression of the Palestinian people.
The Canadian government’s position is based on flawed reasoning and diplomatic hypocrisy. They refuse to recognise a Palestinian state but expect Palestinians to negotiate with their occupiers for their liberation. This is a “conversation between the sword and the neck,” a farce that only serves to entrench Israeli impunity and promote further aggression and ethnic cleansing.
The decision by the International Criminal Court (ICC) to investigate war crimes in the occupied Palestinian territory was met with a fierce PR campaign by Israeli officials, desperate to maintain their impunity and continue their brutal occupation. And who do they turn to for support? Western countries like Canada, who claim to support Palestinian self-determination but refuse to recognise their right to justice and equality.
Canadian foreign minister, Marc Garneau, reiterated Canada’s refusal to recognise the ICC’s jurisdiction to proceed with the investigation. This decision was met with outrage and condemnation from human rights organisations and activists. And yet, this decision is hardly surprising, given Canada’s long history of complicity in Israeli war crimes and its refusal to recognise the Palestinian right to self-determination. Canada claims to support a “rules-based order” and the ICC, but when it comes to Israeli war crimes, they turn a blind eye and refuse to hold those responsible accountable for their actions. They continue to prop up and sustain the Israeli occupation, allowing for the continued dispossession and oppression of the Palestinian people.
Despite publicly voicing concerns about the direction of the Israeli state and repeated calls for peace, Canada under Trudeau has exponentially increased arms sales to Israel. In 2020, Canada’s military exports to Israel reached a 30-year high, which only increased by 33% in 2021. Meanwhile, Israeli forces were bombing residential buildings in Gaza, assaulting worshippers at the al-Aqsa mosque, and shooting children in the West Bank; yet another example of the capitalist greed that fuels the arms trade and perpetuates violence and suffering.
Calls for action from progressive voices within and outside of government have gone ignored and often branded as antisemitic, as Canadian arms exports to Israel continue. NDP leader Jagmeet Singh demanded a halt on arms sales to Israel, pointing out the hypocrisy of the Canadian government in condemning Israeli violence while profiting from it, and we must join him in this call for action.
Today, we stand in solidarity with our Palestinian brothers and sisters as they continue to face systematic oppression and violence at the hands of the Israeli apartheid state. And yet, as we stand with them, we must also call out the cowardice of those claiming to support Palestinian rights while aiding and abetting their oppressors.
We must demand that Canada immediately halt this worrying trend by immediately suspending all military trade with Israel. We must also call for a parliamentary study to determine whether past and current Canadian arms exports have been used against civilians in the Occupied Palestinian Territory or in airstrikes on Gaza. We must hold our officials accountable for their actions and demand justice for the Palestinian people.
The Canadian government is further serving the interests of imperialism by providing weapons to Algeria and Morocco, contributing to the oppression and suffering of the people across North Africa. In 2021 alone, Canada provided Algeria with $34.7 million in arms, the greatest provision since 1987, and Morocco with $22.2 million in arms, an all-time record.
The Canadian military recently deployed aircraft to Japan to enforce sanctions on North Korea. Sanctions which Western nations use as a justification to steal resources and further consolidate control across the world while starving out, impoverishing, and oppressing entire populations. The record proves Justin Trudeau’s Liberals are warmongers, and, make no mistake, Canada’s 2023 budget is a war budget.
The federal government has allocated over $55 billion for national defence, making it the most funded program, which includes the NATO and NORAD programs and the acquisition of more weapons due to perceived threats from China, Russia, and Iran, and acquiring new weapons systems deemed “necessary” to protect Canadian Armed Forces against high-intensity conflicts.
The budget allocates $38.6 billion over 20 years to strengthen the defence of North America and protect the sovereignty of the North, $2.1 billion over seven years, and $706.0 million ongoing for Canada’s contribution to increasing NATO’s common budget, $1.4 billion over 14 years to acquire new weapons systems, including air defence, anti-tank, and anti-drone capability, $605.8 million over five years to replenish the Canadian Armed Forces’ stock of ammunition and explosives, and $562.2 million over six years to improve the digital systems of the Canadian Armed Forces.
The budget also allocates $19 billion for F35 fighter jets and $7 billion for new runways, prioritising the militarisation of the Arctic over its protection. While billions of dollars are being invested in the military infrastructure, Canada’s infrastructure for the people lags behind much of the modern world. Canada still has no high-speed rail, while much of Asia and Europe has integrated their nations to the degree Canada could only dream of. This is due to the maximisation of privatisation of the industries, the degree to which the working class is ignored and even sacrificed to benefit the ruling class, and the complacency of the working class with a system that steps on them at every turn.
Furthermore, the budget includes more references to Ukraine than climate change, with 65 mentions of the former and only 49 of the latter. This shows the government’s misplaced priorities as the world faces a climate emergency threatening the planet. Canada’s financial assistance to Ukraine includes $2.45 billion in loans to the Government of Ukraine, leading to the creation of the IMF-administered account for Ukraine, an approximately $50 million loan guarantee through the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development to facilitate support to Ukraine’s state-owned energy company, Naftogaz, and $115 million in grant assistance to repair Kyiv’s power grid.
The military contributions of Canada to support the Armed Forces of Ukraine include more than $1 billion in military aid and equipment donations, including armoured vehicles, a National Surface-to-Air missile system, 39 armoured combat support vehicles, four M777 howitzers, anti-tank weapons, and small arms. The Canadian Armed Forces’ Operation UNIFIER has trained more than 35,000 members of Ukraine’s security forces since 2015, including training Neo-Nazi groups that have infiltrated Ukraine’s security apparatus.
Anyone familiar with works such as Naomi Klein’s Shock Doctrine can see how this financial and military “aid” is being used by Western nations, especially with the involvement of the IMF. The capitalist vultures exploit crises to impose unjust policies on distracted citizens who cannot resist effectively. It is our duty to raise awareness and organise to fight against this imperialist oppression.
Rather than achieving peace, Canada focuses on continuing to provide arms, extending the conflict, and destabilising the region, forcing Ukraine to increasingly rely on aid. Canada’s militaristic approach, coupled with the IMF’s facilitation of control over the rest of the world, has enabled Western nations to sell out lands, resources, and people to multinational corporations.
While the military-industrial complex receives billions to wage foreign wars against innocent civilians, the Canadian working class barely gets the basic necessities. Workers need a more affordable life, funding for the care economy, good jobs in a sustainable economy, better, more accessible EI, and affordable homes. The budget’s extension of the GST rebate to help offset grocery costs for low-income households fails to tackle the root problem of corporations putting profits before people. And despite pharma care being a crucial part of the Liberal-NDP agreement, the budget fails to implement it. Instead of focusing on creating a better life for the Canadian working class, the budget has prioritised the military-industrial complex and perpetuated Canada’s colonising legacy.
Comrades, the road ahead will not be easy. The forces of imperialism and capitalism are strong, and they will fight tooth and nail to maintain their power and profits. But we must remain steadfast. It is long past time for us to take a stand and demand that our governments live up to their supposed commitment to peace and human rights. It is time for us to take action to end arms exports to oppressive regimes worldwide. We must hold our governments accountable for their complicity in war crimes and the perpetuation of global violence. As Che once said, “The true revolutionary is guided by great feelings of love.” Let us act out of love for our fellow humans and demand justice for all oppressed peoples.
This is a call to all revolutionaries and people of conscience to join together in a stand against our governments’ prioritisation of profits over human lives. We must continue to organise and mobilise, to educate and agitate, until we have achieved our goal of a world free from oppression and exploitation. Long live the people of Yemen! Long live the people of Palestine! Long live the revolution! The struggle continues!
Cover Image Credit: By DonkeyHotey is licensed under CC BY 2.0.