04/12/2016 09:07 EDT | Updated 04/13/2017 05:12 EDT

Stephane Dion Approved $11B Sale Of Armoured Vehicles To Saudi, Docs Reveal

The previous Conservative government approved the Saudi LAV contract and the Liberals have decided to honour it.

OTTAWA — Documents provided by Foreign Affairs Minister Stephane Dion's office say the minister approved the export of $11 billion worth of the $15 billion in light armoured vehicles destined for Saudi Arabia as part of a controversial defence contract.

Dion approved the export after government officials advised him that they were satisfied the Saudis would not use the combat vehicles against their own people, but instead would use them to defend Canada's common security interests with the desert kingdom.

The documents, which Dion's office gave to The Canadian Press, cite the ongoing fight against Islamic State militants, in which Saudi Arabia is an ally with Canada, the United States and a coalition of several dozen countries.

The previous Conservative government approved the Saudi LAV contract and the Liberals have decided to honour it because they say cancelling it would lead to costly financial penalties that would hurt the country's long-term business interests.

Foreign Affairs Minister Stephane Dion speaks in the House of Commons. (Photo: The Canadian Press)

Groups such as Amnesty International and Project Ploughshares have called on the government to cancel the deal.

Dion has said the government would closely examine all future Saudi export permits with an eye towards ensuring they are consistent with international law, human rights and national interests.

The documents acknowledge the controversy surrounding the deal, but conclude there are no violations that would justify cancelling the deal.

"The government is undertaking a review of Canada's current export control measures — to find ways to make the process more open, transparent, and accountable," Dion's spokesman Joe Pickerill said Tuesday night.

The analysis in the documents — stamped "Secret" — also acknowledges the poor Saudi human rights record, but it concludes there's no tangible link between it and the Ontario-made LAVs.

"Working with the Saudis allows us to hold them to account and creates opportunities to make progress on a range of issues, including human rights," said Pickerill.

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