As COVID-19 continues to rip through the world, there is one business in Canada which has not been impacted. The arms industry, according to the Liberal government, is deemed an essential service. On April 9, Canadian government officials announced that they would be lifting moratoriums on new export permits of military equipment to Saudi Arabia. This includes light-armoured vehicles, which were the subject of a $15 billion arms deal between Canada and Saudi Arabia in 2014.

The moratorium had been placed on new export permits after the unresolved murder of Saudi dissident and Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi in which the crown prince of Saudi Arabia is implicated. Following international condemnation and outcry, Trudeau was forced to impose the moratorium and stated that the Liberal government was seeking a “way out” of the 2014 contract. Apparently, they were unsuccessful, as arms shipments continued even during the moratorium.

Nonetheless, the Liberal government was able to appear as if they had done something. Now this comforting illusion has been shattered with the issuing of new export licenses to Saudi Arabia for Canadian arms manufacturers. Instead of shifting Canadian industry to producing protective equipment for essential workers in a time of crisis, the Liberal government is continuing to produce and sell weapons abroad. Clearly, the Liberals are more interested in satiating the greed of arms manufacturers.

The crimes and hypocrisy of Canadian imperialism

On March 23, the UN Secretary-General issued a press release urging all wars to cease internationally in the face of COVID-19. This led to a “ceasefire” declared by both Saudi Arabia and the Houthi government in Yemen. Such a peace was hardly worth the ink purchased to write it as, since the ceasefire has been declared, both the Saudi coalition and the Houthis have breached the peace 241 times, escalating the conflict further. 

The Canadian government also issued a statement in support of a global ceasefire, to the confusion of all involved. It is a well-known fact that Canadian weapons have been used in Yemen, despite the assurances of Liberal officials that arms sold will not be used in the conflict. There are dozens of pictures online documenting this. It seems as if there are two Liberal governments: one that seeks international peace and cooperation, and one that seeks to profit from war by selling arms to support dictatorships internationally. 

The war in Yemen has been one of the worst in modern history. With more than 100,000 deaths to date, it has also caused a famine in Yemen with millions starving. The healthcare infrastructure has also been destroyed in the process of the fighting, leading to outbreaks of measles, cholera, diphtheria, and dengue fever. This is no accident, as the Saudi coalition has intentionally targeted health facilities. Since 2015, half of Yemen’s health facilities have closed. Doctors have been targeted, abducted, tortured. This has led to organizations rightfully deeming the conflict in Yemen an ongoing genocide. As the first case of COVID-19 is reported in Yemen and the fighting continues, it has become clear that the stage is set for a pandemic of horrifying scale in the country. These are the people the Liberal government has chosen to get into bed with. With the situation as it is in Yemen, the Liberals have blood on their hands.

Profits over people

The continuation of the arms deal, signed in 2014, was one of the first acts of the Liberal government upon entering office. Despite the posturing of the government as international peacekeepers, the Liberal government has long been a representative of big business in Canada. This includes the arms dealers in Canada, who have profited massively from the $15 billion deal with Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabia remains one of the most backwards countries in the world. Women, migrant workers, and children are routinely abused by the state. The war in Yemen and the blockade of food and vital goods such as medicine have led to the worst famine in modern history, with 8 million people starving and 22 million people in need of immediate aid

The Liberal government’s support of such a regime reveals more and more that profit is the only thing this government cares about. Instead of nationalizing and then retooling manufacturers to build ventilators, protective equipment for workers, and other goods essential for life, the Liberal government is showing everyone what the priority is: profits for the industry of death. We should expect no less from a party with a record of supporting big business over working people, both here in Canada and internationally.