04/27/2016 11:47 EDT | Updated 04/28/2017 05:12 EDT

Canada, Saudi Arabia Arms Deal Breaks Export Control Rules, Opponents Say

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has maintained that cancelling the deal would give Canada a bad trading reputation.

OTTAWA — The Liberal government must rethink its $15-billion arms deal with Saudi Arabia, given the deteriorating human rights situation there and in neighbouring countries, a group of peace and human rights organizations urged Wednesday.

Opponents of the controversial sale of Canadian-made light armoured vehicles in the Middle East say it flies in the face of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's promise to reinvigorate Canada's standing on human rights issues around the world.

"This is not 'sunny ways,"' Rideau Institute president Peggy Mason told a news conference in Ottawa.

In an open letter to Trudeau, the coalition of groups say the deal breaks both the spirit and the letter of international laws and Canada's export controls.

Credibility 'utterly compromised'

"We urge you to consider seriously whether our export controls have served their intended purpose with the authorization of this deal," it reads.

So far, Trudeau has insisted that cancelling the deal, brokered by the previous Conservative government, would give Canada a bad trading reputation. He has also pointed out that a lot of Canadian jobs are at stake.

"We believe deeply that the integrity and the credibility of Canada's export control regime has been utterly compromised with the authorization to proceed with this deal," said Cesar Jaramillo, the executive director of Project Ploughshares.

Contract worth almost 3,000 jobs

The agreement to sell the vehicles, known as LAV3s, was made by the Harper government in February 2014, giving General Dynamics Land Systems a 15-year contract to manufacture them for the Saudi Arabian National Guard.

It's estimated the contract is worth about 3,000 jobs in southwestern Ontario.

The machines are not weaponized in Canada, but can be equipped with a range of heavy weapons, including guns capable of firing anti-tank missiles.

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