In October 2018, after journalist and Washington Post contributing columnist Jamal Khashoggi was killed in the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul, the Canadian government said it was reviewing existing arms sales and would not approve new arms exports to the kingdom in the interim.
Before his death, Khashoggi, writing in The Post, had been critical of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia. The CIA concluded that the crown prince had probably ordered the killing, a charge he has denied.
Canadian Foreign Minister François-Philippe Champagne and Finance Minister Bill Morneau said in a joint statement that the review had been completed and that Canada had begun “reviewing permit applications on a case-by-case basis.”
Trudeau has waffled on suspending the contract. He has at times said he was looking for a way out of the deal but cautioned that doing so could be costly because of punitive clauses in the contract. In 2014, Canadian officials said the deal would sustain 3,000 jobs each year, including in London, Ontario, where the vehicles are manufactured.
Champagne and Morneau said in their statement that after a renegotiation of the terms of the deal, they could reveal for the first time that the cancellation of the contract or “even the mere disclosure of its terms” could have resulted in “potential damages amounting to the full value of the contract.”
“Under the improved agreement, we have ensured that Canadians’ exposure to financial risk will be eliminated where future export permits are delayed or denied if there is an infringement of the permit’s end use assurances — which ensure that the vehicles are used only for the stated purpose,” the statement said.
Several aspects of the agreement remain cloaked in secrecy, including the number of light armored vehicles it encompasses and the delivery schedule. Speaking to reporters on Thursday, Champagne said that the contract was “close to 50 percent” completed and that amendments to the contract were signed March 31.
Champagne said Canada would be creating an “arms length” advisory panel of experts that will review best practices for arms exports by parties to the U.N. Arms Trade Treaty.
Human rights groups have said that Riyadh was using the Canadian-made arms to perpetrate human rights violations. In February 2018, then-Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland said her department’s investigation of those reports turned up “no conclusive evidence” to support those claims.
Saudi-Canadian relations have soured in recent years. In August 2018, Saudi Arabia recalled its envoy, expelled Canada’s ambassador and ordered thousands of Saudi students to leave Canada after Canada’s Foreign Ministry sent out a pair of tweets calling on Riyadh to immediately release human rights activists jailed there.
Champagne said that “the human rights record of Saudi Arabia remains troubling,” particularly when it comes to civil rights and women’s rights.
“What we are doing today is improving a situation we have inherited,” he said.