As Liberals go, there aren't many of the stature of Lloyd Axworthy, a stalwart of the era of Jean Chretien and a genuine progressive. Now Axworthy is calling out Justin Trudeau over the rancid Saudi arms deal and it's a welcome breath of fresh air.
A prominent former Liberal foreign minister is calling on Justin Trudeau’s government to review a controversial $15-billion arms deal with Saudi Arabia, saying he doesn’t think Canada should be deepening relations with a Mideast country notorious for human rights abuses.
Lloyd Axworthy, who served as foreign minister between 1996 and 2000 under prime minister Jean Chrétien, remains influential in Liberal circles.
He said he was surprised that Mr. Trudeau is being advised in briefing books to strengthen economic ties with Saudi Arabia because it would be good for business and Riyadh is an influential regional power.
Mr. Axworthy said a recommendation to “cozy up” to Saudi Arabia is “about the last piece of advice I would give,” particularly due to what he sees as Saudi Arabia’s worsening record. The country is notorious for its treatment of women, dissidents and prisoners. This month, Riyadh conducted a mass execution that included a prominent Muslim cleric.
“I think the Saudis have really in the last couple of years, really become a problem country,” he said. “The degree of oppression against women and dissidents in Saudi Arabia is becoming almost epidemic.”
The Trudeau Liberals are refusing to cancel a contract to provide hundreds, if not thousands, of weaponized amoured combat vehicles to the Saudi Arabian National Guard on the grounds that it would injure Canada’s reputation to renege on what they characterize as a done deal.
He said Canada has to consider the cost of lending support to the oppressive Saudi leadership.
“Everybody says it’s for jobs but I think if you start counting up the price you pay in terms of instability and repression and forceful maintenance of order, you may be paying a high price.”
Mr. Axworthy, who has spoken out in defence of Trudeau policies, such as the mass intake of Syrian refugees, said the Liberal government’s unwillingness to carefully examine the armoured vehicle transaction is unexpected.
“Trudeau has stated so many times that the key to Canadian foreign policy is respect for others and to adhere to basic standards and rights,” he said.
“To me this whole thing is an anomaly. Frankly, I don’t get it – the way in which the Saudi thing has been handled.”
He also advised the Trudeau government to rethink the state of Canada’s ties with Saudi Arabia. “It’s time we really had an examination of this relationship. Because until countries start doing that ... until that starts happening, they [the Saudis] are going to behave with impunity.”
Make no mistake, that's an intensely murderous impunity to boot. Not for nothing did the UN General Secretary call out Riyadh for war crimes for blasting Yemeni civilians with cluster bombs. Tally it all up from Saudi support for Islamist terrorism - al Qaeda, al Nusra, ISIS, to its oppression of its own women and dissidents, to its brutal repression of Shia populations in neighbouring states all the way to pretty blatant war crimes and what Liberal with the merest shred of conscience would advocate strengthening economic ties with those animals?
At times Harper made me deeply ashamed of my country. I never expected the same from Justin Trudeau.