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NDP call on Liberals to stop selling light armoured vehicles to Saudi Arabia

NDP leader Jagmeet Singh is criticizing the federal government for selling military vehicles to Saudi Arabia, following U.S. President Joe Biden's announcement Thursday that the United States will end support for the Saudi-led war in Yemen.

The light armoured vehicles are manufactured by General Dynamics in London, Ont.

A Canadian LAV (light armoured vehicle) arrives to escort a convoy at a forward operating base near Panjwaii, Afghanistan at sunrise on Nov.26, 2006. (Bill Graveland/Canadian Press)

NDP leader Jagmeet Singh is criticizing the federal government for selling military vehicles to Saudi Arabia, following U.S. President Joe Biden's announcement Thursday that the United States will end support for the Saudi-led war in Yemen.

The light armoured vehicles, known as LAVs, are manufactured by General Dynamics in London, Ont. where it employs about 1,700 employees. 

"There is a time when the clear human rights violations perpetrated by a country make it so we cannot sell them arms," said Singh, citing the Kingdom's treatment of its citizens and the murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018.

In the spring the federal government announced that it has renegotiated the contract it had with Saudi Arabia. Then foreign affairs minister Francois-Philippe Champagne, said the revised $14 billion agreement — which for years has been a political flashpoint because of the desert kingdom's dismal human rights record — allows the Liberal government to speak more freely about the terms of the deal. 

Current Foreign Affairs Minister Marc Garneau said he "will deny any permit application where there is a risk of human rights violations" and that human rights considerations are now at the centre of Canada's export regime.

Earlier Thursday Biden announced that the United States was ending its support for the five-year Saudi-led military offensive in Yemen that has deepened suffering in the Arabian peninsula's poorest country. 

"The war has created a humanitarian and strategic catastrophe," Biden told diplomats in his first visit to the State Department as president. "This war has to end."

The Yemen reversal is one of a series of changes Biden laid out Thursday that he said would mark a course correction for U.S. foreign policy.

Workers not to blame says Singh

The previous Conservative government led by former prime minister Stephen Harper, struck a deal in 2014 to supply the Saudis with hundreds of LAV 6.0 advanced combat vehicles used to transport troops on the battlefield.

The LAVs are wheeled military vehicles armed with various weapons, including automatic cannons, machine guns, mortars and anti-tank missiles. They are being produced by General Dynamics Land Systems-Canada (GDLS-C) at its plant in London, Ont.

The roughly $14-billion contract was brokered and is being managed by the Canadian Commercial Corporation (CCC), a Crown corporation that helps Canadian companies in aerospace, defence, infrastructure and other sectors land contracts with foreign governments.

Singh said the workers are not to blame.

"This is the Liberal government's fault for going ahead with the sale of arms to a country which is clearly a country that's violating human rights," he said.

"We should not let that impact the workers and their jobs. We can secure them with local Canadian contracts," said Singh, adding that the Canadian Forces need similar vehicles.

With files from the Associated Press

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