As It Happens

Despite past remarks, Liberal MP defends Saudi Arabia arms deal

London North Centre MP Peter Fragiskatos denounced Saudi regime as an academic; now supports controversial $15-billion arms deal.
Saudi forces in a graduation ceremony in Riyadh. Saudi Arabia is widely criticized for its human-rights practices. (FAISAL AL NASSER/REUTERS)

Peter Fragiskatos is under no illusions about Saudi Arabia's respect for human rights. The Liberal Member of Parliament repeatedly denounced the regime's record during his time teaching international relations at Western University. 

But Fragiskatos has since been elected to represent the people of London North Centre. The area has been hit hard by the implosion of Ontario's manufacturing sector, and it has a lot to gain from the Liberals' promise to follow through on a deal to sell $15-billion worth of London-built armoured vehicles to the Saudi National Guard.

As It Happens guest host Helen Mann asked how his past comments matched up with his current position. Here is part of that interview: 

Helen Mann: In 2011, in an article in Le Monde, you called Saudi Arabia's princes 'tyrants,' you compared them to Colonel Gadhafi, the Shah of Iran, and also Saddam Hussein. I guess I want to know if your personal opinion of the regime has changed? 

Peter Fragiskatos: I am no supporter of any regime that cracks down on their citizens and violates democracy. Not at any point have I come out and said anything otherwise, since I've been elected. What I would say, is that at the same time we hold regimes that are violating human rights to account, we also have to be at the table. It is critical that we be heard, and I understand and sympathize with those who have concerns about Saudi Arabia's human rights violations, but cancelling this contract will not allow a dialogue to take place with the Saudi regime.

At the same time we hold regimes that are violating human rights to account... we also have to be at the table.- Peter Fragiskatos, Liberal MP for London North Centre
London North Centre Member of Parliament Peter Fragiskatos with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. (Peter Fragiskatos)

HM: When have you seen any indication that Saudi Arabia cares what Canada thinks of what it is doing?

PF: Look, I was elected on October 19th. I can't say I've had as much time as others have, in the previous government, for example, to look at this and analyze it. But what I can say is that, simply from an academic perspective, what is clear to me and what the evidence shows is that the states who are engaged in relationships with countries, can be heard. I believe we can do the same here, as far as our relationship with the Saudis is concerned, and beyond that.

Listen to the full interview to hear Fragiskatos on the government's transparency around the the agreement, on how the deal would benefit his London constituency, and more. 


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