As Amnesty warns about Saudi arms deal, Trudeau says contract a matter of principle
"It's important that people know that when they sign a deal with Canada, a change of government isn't going to lead to the contract being ripped up."
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LONDON, Ont. — Amnesty International is raising red flags about the sale of Canadian-made armoured vehicles to Saudi Arabia, but Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is sticking to the deal, saying a contract is a contract.
Amnesty says it is worried that Canadian armour sold to the Saudis earlier may have been used in ground attacks in Yemen.
Trudeau says the agreement is a matter of principle.
He says the contract signed under the previous government must be honoured by his government.
Canada's word has to mean something in the international community.
Contracts can't just be abandoned, he says.
"It's important that people know that when they sign a deal with Canada, a change of government isn't going to lead to the contract being ripped up," Trudeau said Thursday at a news conference in London, Ont.
He also noted that a lot of Canadian jobs are at stake.
He was speaking in the home of General Dynamics Land Systems-Canada, which is building the light armoured vehicles that are at issue in the multibillion-dollar deal.
Amnesty said it was disappointed with the sale.
"We have good reason to fear that light armoured vehicles supplied to Saudi security forces are likely to be used in situations that would violate human rights, whether these forces are intervening in neighbouring countries or suppressing demonstrations and unrest within Saudi Arabia," the agency said in a statement.
Earlier this week, Foreign Affairs Minister Stephane Dion, noting earlier sales of similar armour to the Saudis, said there is no reason to think those vehicles have been misused.
"Our best, and regularly updated, information indicates that Saudi Arabia has not misused the equipment to violate human rights," he said in a statement. "Nor has the equipment been used in a manner contrary to the strategic interests of Canada and its allies."
He said he will be watching the situation.
Trudeau said future sales will come under scrutiny.
"From now on, now that this government is in office, we will be demonstrating transparency and rigour and showing Canadians that we are abiding by our principles and the laws that are in place."