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Trudeau defends Saudi arms export deal, points finger at Harper government

Trudeau defends Saudi arms export deal, points finger at Harper government
From CBC - March 20, 2018

The export of over 900 armoured vehicles to Saudi Arabia, including some outfitted for "heavy assault," falls in line with Canada's foreign and defence policies, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Tuesday.

He was responding to NDP attacks in the House of Commons over new details of the $15 billion 2014 contract.

CBC News obtained documents which outlinefor the first timespecifics of the agreement involving General Dynamics Land Systems, of London, Ont.

The deal was sealed from outside view by the federal agency which brokered the arrangementthe Canadian Commercial Corporationat the insistence of the Saudis.

The agreement as it was when it was signed in 2014 called for the sale of 928 of the newly developed, highly-advanced LAV 6s, including 119 with"heavy assault" 105 millimetre cannons.

The deal was approved initially bythe former Conservative government, but was given a final green light when the Liberals signed export permits that allowed the sale to proceed despite growing concerns about Saudi Arabia's human rights record.

The federal government has been asked to consider seven permits associated with the sale, according to a 2016 briefing paper prepared for then-foreign affairs minister StphaneDion and obtained by CBC News under access to information legislation.

'Consistent with our policies'

Trudeau defended the deal and his government's decision to approve it.

"Permits are only approved if the exports are consistent with our foreign and defence policies, including human rights," he told the House of Commons Tuesday. "Our approach fully meets our national obligations and Canadian laws."

Trudeauhas stood behind the deal in the past,saying Canada had to respect contracts signed by previous governments.

On Tuesday, Trudeau took a moment to tout changes his government is making to the arms export control regime and to take a swipe at the government of former prime minister Stephen Harper.

"We have brought new processes of transparency and accountability to international sales because Canadians expect a higher level of accountability than the Conservatives have offered us for 10 years," he said.

New Democrat foreign affairs critic Helene Laverdiere said a higher level of accountability would involve releasing details of a recent investigation by Global Affairs Canada staff into allegations that Canadian-made armoured vehicles had been used in the long-running conflict against the Shiite population in Qatif, a restive district of eastern Saudi Arabia.

Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland told a Commons committee recently that the report found "no conclusive evidence that Canadian-made vehicles were used in human rights violations."

Make the Saudi report public, saycritics

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