Canadians ‘weary’ of arms trade with Saudi Arabia, survey says

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Canadians ‘weary’ of arms trade with Saudi Arabia, survey says


VANCOUVER—In the aftermath of Jamal Khashoggi’s murder, a new survey has found Canadians to be “weary” of exporting military technology to Saudi Arabia.

In an online survey by the Angus Reid Institute, Canadians expressed “total unanimity” about prohibiting the sale of weapons and defence equipment to the Middle Eastern country. Nearly half of respondents agreed that the federal government should scrap a 15-year arms deals worth $15 billion and “be even more vocal in criticizing Saudi Arabia for its human-rights abuses.”

Bandar bin Mohammed Al-Aiban, president of the Human Rights Commission of Saudi Arabia, is seen on a TV screen delivering a speech before the UN Human Rights Council on Nov. 5 in Geneva. Countries gathered to review the rights record of Saudi Arabia as it faces a torrent of international condemnation over the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
Bandar bin Mohammed Al-Aiban, president of the Human Rights Commission of Saudi Arabia, is seen on a TV screen delivering a speech before the UN Human Rights Council on Nov. 5 in Geneva. Countries gathered to review the rights record of Saudi Arabia as it faces a torrent of international condemnation over the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.  (FABRICE COFFRINI / AFP/Getty Images)

The number of Canadians who say their country should not sell military technology to Saudi Arabia has jumped by 14 per cent since last year to 76 per cent.

Shachi Kurl, executive director of the institute, said the findings reflect Canadians’ concerns about Saudi Arabi, especially with regard to human-rights abuses in the war in Yemen. She said Canadians are also concerned that Canadian-made vehicles may have been used to suppress dissent in Saudi Arabia.

“These are factors that certainly increase a growing sense of unease,” she added.

Kurl said the survey findings “embolden” and “validate” the Canadian government in its public criticism of the Saudi government.

“The murder of Mr. Khashoggi would have galvanized, reminded Canadians of their unease or discomfort with some of these issues,” Kurl said.

Khashoggi, a Washington Post contributing columnist, entered the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2 to retrieve paperwork that he needed to marry his Turkish fiancée. Turkish officials say a “hit squad” of Saudi agents dispatched from the gulf killed Khashoggi in the consulate and dismembered his body before returning to Saudi soil, according to The Washington Post.

The incident has raised questions about whether Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, a target of Khashoggi’s criticism, knew in advance about the alleged state-sanctioned killing.

In October, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau hinted at freezing arms export permits to Saudi Arabia and said his government was working with its G7 allies to co-ordinate an appropriate response to Khashoggi’s death.

“We condemn the horrible murder of Jamal Khashoggi,” Trudeau told the House of Commons, adding “we are deeply concerned about reports on the participation of Saudi forces.”

Trudeau’s Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland said that Canada views the Saudi regime’s explanations about Khashoggi’s death as “not consistent,” “not coherent” and “not credible.”

The survey was conducted between Oct. 24 and Oct. 29 among a representative randomized sample of 1,500 Canadian adults who have signed up to receive surveys as part of the Angus Reid Forum. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.5 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

With files from Tonda MacCharles

Jenny Peng is a Vancouver-based reporter covering business. Follow her on Twitter: @JennyPengNow





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