Cesar Jaramillo is executive director at Project Ploughshares, an operating division of the Canadian Council of Churches, based in Waterloo, ON. His areas of expertise include nuclear disarmament, outer space security and conventional weapons control. As an international civil society representative, Cesar has addressed, among others, the UN General Assembly First Committee (Disarmament and International Security), the UN Conference on Disarmament, the UN Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS), and states parties to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). He has also given guest lectures and presentations at academic institutions such as the National Law University in New Delhi, the China University of Political Science and Law in Beijing, and the University of Toronto. An occasional columnist on matters of disarmament and international security, Cesar graduated from the University of Waterloo with an MA in global governance and has bachelor’s degrees in honours political science and in journalism. Prior to joining Project Ploughshares, Cesar held a fellowship at the Centre for International Governance Innovation (CIGI).
Tick, tock: the Doomsday clock measured by The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists has moved 30 seconds closer to midnight (meaning: global catastrophe) -- from three minutes to two minutes, 30 seconds. Not since the 1950s has midnight been so close. Why the move?
While every other category of weapons of mass destruction has been specifically prohibited under international law, nuclear weapons -- by far the most destructive of them all -- remarkably still have not. What is needed is a global legal ban on nuclear weapons, with specific provisions for the elimination of existing arsenals and a timeline for verified implementation.
Canadians have spoken. Reasonable risk has been established. Evidence has been presented. All possible red flags have been raised. At this point, proceeding with this deal will utterly and predictably undermine the integrity of Canada's export control system.
According to Prime Minister Trudeau, proceeding with the multi-billion dollar arms deal with human rights violator Saudi Arabia is "a matter of principle." When have we heard this before? Ah yes, the previous government. Global Affairs Canada has released a statement explaining its rationale for authorizing the deal, ostensibly in response to the widespread backlash and barrage of questions in the wake of revelations that export permits for the deal were only authorized in early April.
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.
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?
Since the $15-billion Saudi arms deal was announced on Valentine's Day 2014, there have been numerous occasions when Ottawa should have explained to Canadians how this contract is compatible with the human rights safeguards of Canadian export controls. Yet two years on, we are still waiting for an explanation.
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.
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?
North Korea's recent nuclear-weapons test constitutes provocative, destabilizing activity for the region and the globe and demands strong condemnation from the international community. Every effort must be made to keep North Korea's nuclear ambitions in check. But too often outside policymakers and observers seem to overlook the simple fact that the current standoff is in part a result of an unsustainable nuclear-weapons regime that perpetuates a double standard between states that have nuclear weapons and those that do not.
Canada is selling ultra-modern fighting machines, routinely fitted with large-calibre guns, cannons and mortars -- unequivocally covered by Canada's military export control policy. If the deal proceeds, let us not forget that it did so with full prior knowledge of export safeguards and of the end user's abysmal human rights record.
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.