2016 Bob Shlehuber
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Becoming a refugee in the United States wasn't a happy choice; it was painful choice I was pushed to take because all the other options are horrifying.
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We have a problem, rather, a preoccupation with power. It is human nature to want and crave it, but the ways we get it and keep it are usually inhumane. The simplest, most base feeling of power is that of physical might. The ability to defeat one's foes in combat.
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There's a military spending frenzy in the Middle East.
Any agreement signed by the Harper Conservatives must have been contingent upon the subsequent issuance of export permits, which are key to the integrity of Canada's military export control system. Honouring the deal with Saudi Arabia -- as Prime Minister Trudeau has pledged -- simply means allowing the export control system to function as it should.
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Questions about the dubious eligibility of Saudi Arabia as a recipient of Canadian-made military equipment have been raised for over two years. Yet two successive governments have failed to address the most basic question: how can the authorization of this deal be consistent with the human-rights safeguards of Canadian export controls?
No line taken by the government in this matter will please everyone. Perhaps it will plough through with the deal and weather the heat from critics, no matter how persistent. Alternatively, if it decides to open the books on the Saudi deal, and the contract is altered, suspended or cancelled, there will be complaints from those concerned for the economy. The Saudi arms deal presents the new government with an admittedly complex policy challenge. But challenges can result in opportunity.
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On the same week that Ottawa condemned the most recent human rights violation in Saudi Arabia, it confirmed that Canada was set to proceed with plans to arm the perpetrator. Every indication is that the $15-billion deal, which the Canadian Government brokered on behalf of General Dynamics Land Systems of London, Ontario to provide Saudi Arabia with Light Armoured Vehicles, will go ahead. But can this largest-ever Canadian military exports contract comply with the human rights safeguards of Canadian exports control policies?
Less than two months before Ottawa announced a $14.8-billion military export contract with Saudi Arabia Canada provided substantial input concerning the Saudi human rights situation at the United Nations Human Rights Council. And while progress has been utterly lacking in relation to every single recommendation made by Canada, it is now all but certain that the deal with the autocratic Kingdom will proceed.
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