Documents obtained by CBC News are shedding light on the strategy the federal government is using to justify the sale of light armoured vehicles to Saudi Arabia.
The newly revealed documents from Global Affairs Canada confirm that Foreign Affairs Minister Stéphane Dion has signed off on export permits to ship $11 billion worth of the $15-billion vehicle sale to the desert kingdom.
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These documents also say that it's rare for a foreign affairs minister to personally sign off on export permits, but that this is an exception because the deal is so high profile — and worth so much money.
The deal with Saudi Arabia was struck by Stephen Harper's government, and when it was announced the Conservatives used the opportunity to tout the thousands of jobs it would create and sustain in southern Ontario.
But since the sale of vehicles by General Dynamics Land Systems was announced, questions have emerged over Saudi Arabia's human rights record.
Saudi rights violations noted
The documents acknowledge these concerns noting; "the reported high number of executions, suppression of political opposition, the application of corporal punishment, suppression of freedom of expression, arbitrary arrest, ill-treatment of detainees, limitations of freedom of religion, discrimination against women and the mistreatment of migrant workers."
The document goes on to say that Canadian officials "engage regularly with Saudi officials" when required to raise human rights issues of concern while at the same time describing Canada's military alliance with the kingdom as having been "cemented" during the 1991 Persian Gulf War.
"Saudi Arabia is a key military ally supporting international efforts to counter ISIS in Iraq and Syria as well as countering instability in Yemen," the documents says.
"The acquisition of state-of-the-art armoured vehicles will assist Saudi Arabia in these goals, which are consistent with Canada's defence interests in the Middle East."
LAV sales not linked to abuses
The deal has been widely criticized by groups such as Amnesty International, which has raised concerns about how those weapons will be used by the Saudi regime.
The documents, however, insist that Global Affairs Canada is not aware of any reports linking violations of civil or political rights in the kingdom with proposed military exports.
"Canada has sold thousands of LAVs to Saudi Arabia since the 1990s, and, to the best of the department's knowledge, there have been no incidents where they have been used in the perpetration of human rights violations," the documents say.
The documents also draw attention to a story first reported by the CBC detailing how Canadian sniper rifles, sold to Saudi Arabia, were likely stolen "from Saudi forces by Houthi fighters during military operation along the Saudi-Yemeni border."