OTTAWA — The association representing Canada's defence industry is defending the controversial $15-billion sale of light armoured vehicles to Saudi Arabia by an Ontario company.
Christyn Cianfarani, president of the Canadian Association of Defence and Security Industries, said Wednesday said it is the responsibility of her industry to follow the rules set by the government.
"As an industry association, we certainly don't take positions on the judicial practices of other nations,'' said Cianfarani, whose organization represents more than 700 defence and security companies.
"Nor are we responsible for setting the foreign policy of the country.''
Groups such as Amnesty International, the NDP and others have criticized the Liberals for honouring the controversial deal approved by the previous Conservative government, for General Dynamics Land Systems to sell the vehicles to the Saudis.
A Canadian LAV (light armoured vehicle) arrives to escort a convoy at a forward operating base near Panjwaii, Afghanistan at sunrise on Nov. 26, 2006. (Photo: Bill Graveland/Canadian Press)
They cite Saudi Arabia's poor human rights record, which includes crackdowns on dissent, mass executions and the subjugation of women. They also say the vehicles could be used against civilians.
"It's our responsibility to follow the rules, it's very simple,'' said Cianfarani. "The industry is heavily, heavily regulated and our job is to follow the rules that are set by the government of Canada.''
Cianfarani was asked about the deal at the opening of the large, two-day defence and security trade show, known as CANSEC. It features massive displays of weapons and high technology and boasts 11,000 participants from around the world.
"It's our responsibility to follow the rules, it's very simple.''
The annual gathering, which has often sparked protests from peace groups, has been moved to a conference centre close to Ottawa's airport.
Cianfarani's association unveiled its annual report that showed the defence industry contributed $6.7 billion in GDP and 63,000 jobs to the Canadian economy in 2014.
That was the year that the Saudi deal was announced by the government.
Cianfarani said she didn't have any specific figures to show how the Saudi deal contributed to the industry's performance in 2014.
Feds say the deal will create jobs
Foreign Affairs Minister Stephane Dion and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau have said the deal means jobs for Canadian workers and that cancelling the contract would damage Canada's international reputation in future negotiations.
The government says there's no evidence the light armoured vehicles would be used against Saudi civilians and that they are meant to help the desert kingdom fight the common enemy of Islamic state militants in the region.
Dion visited Saudi Arabia this week for meetings of the Gulf Co-operation Council, a regional group of countries that Canada sees as a strategic partner.
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ASSOCIATED PRESSSaudi women and girls can not travel, conduct business and even undergo certain medical procedures without the permission of their male guardians. The guardianship system remains in force despite the government pledging to get rid of it.
FAYEZ NURELDINE via Getty ImagesWomen are still barred from driving and are subject to strict clothing requirements in public. A women cannot unilaterally divorce her husband and will often face discrimination when attempting to obtain custody of children.
ASSOCIATED PRESSThere are over 9 million migrant workers in Saudi Arabia many working in conditions tantamount to slavery. A sponsorship system is open to abuse from employers who often enforce work by withholding passports and wages.
REXSaudi Arabia routinely imposes the death penalty and performs sentences in public. Children can be tried and sentenced if any physical signs of puberty are evident.
ASSOCIATED PRESSPublic worship of any religion other than Islam is not tolerated in Saudi Arabia. Additionally, religious minorities are also targeted including those within Islam such as Twelver Shia.
ASSOCIATED PRESSSaudi Arabia's Shura Council is only just contemplating the possibility of allowing girls to have physical education lessons in schools. Recently a Saudi Arabian official suggested the country would hold a segregated Olympics.
NICHOLAS KAMM via Getty ImagesSaudi Arabia routinely detains and imprisons activists. Human rights lawyer Waleed Abu al-Khair was jailed for 15 years after assisting international media cover the 2011 protests in Eastern Province. His wife is now also subject to a travel ban after calling for his release.