Montreal

Saudi arms deal with Trudeau government leaves Daniel Turp 'astonished'

The Montreal law professor who led the court challenge of the federal government's Saudi arms deal says he's "astonished" by Foreign Affairs Minister Stéphane Dion's decision to approve most of the $15-billion combat vehicle order.

'There's something really unacceptable in the way things have been done,' Montreal law professor says

The $15-billion deal that Canada helped secure in 2014 would see the London, Ont. based manufacturer General Dynamics Land Systems sell armoured vehicles to Saudi Arabia. (Mark Spowart/Canadian Press)

A Montreal law professor leading a court challenge against the federal government's Saudi arms deal says he's "astonished" by Foreign Affairs Minister Stéphane Dion's decision to approve most of the $15-billion combat vehicle order. 

Daniel Turp filed for a judicial review of the deal last month in Federal Court, hoping a judge would block the sale due to the country's human rights violations.

"You would expect the government to await the decision of the court," Turp, a former Bloc Québécois MP, told CBC Montreal's Daybreak on Wednesday.

"There's something really unacceptable in the way things have been done."

The federal Liberal government has promised to honour the contract with Saudi Arabia, signed by the previous Conservative government.

Université de Montréal law professor Daniel Turp says he's 'astonished' Foreign Affairs Minister Stéphane Dion would sign off on most of the $15-billion arms sale to Saudia Arabia. (Radio-Canada)
Turp, a member of Université de Montréal's law faculty, launched the  legal challenge along with his international law class.

But documents provided by Ottawa in response to Turp's lawsuit and shared with CBC News on Tuesday show Dion signed off on export permits to ship $11 billion of the $15-billion deal while the case was before the courts.

The documents acknowledge Saudi Arabia's poor human rights record while arguing the country is a "key military ally."

There's something fundamentally wrong, morally wrong with this idea to deliver these weapons to Saudi Arabia.- Daniel Turp, Université de Montréal law professor

In particular, the documents note, "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."

In support of the sale, however, the documents state that Saudi Arabia supports "international efforts to counter ISIS in Iraq and Syria as well as countering instability in Yemen."

"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," the documents say.

On Daybreak Wednesday, Turp maintained the country's human rights violations, citing the case of blogger Raif Badawi and the execution of dozens of prisoners, make the deal a nonstarter.

"There's something fundamentally wrong, morally wrong with this idea to deliver these weapons to Saudi Arabia," he said, adding that he remains hopeful the court challenge will block the sale. 

"Maybe a judge will give more importance to human rights than the government of Canada."

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