Activists dropped banners from a CN overpass in downtown Toronto on March 5 to draw attention to the railway company’s role in shipping weapons to Saudi Arabia.
Rachel Small, Canada organizer for World BEYOND War, says the use by Saudi troops of Light Armoured Vehicles (LAVs) manufactured by General Dynamics Land Systems in London, Ontario has been well-documented in the war in Yemen where a humanitarian crisis is unfolding.
“It’s despicable,” says Small, who notes that the U.S. has signalled it will be freezing arms sales to Saudi Arabia over its involvement in Yemen. Germany and Italy have also halted arms sales to Saudi Arabia over its involvement in a conflict that has its roots in the Arab Spring uprising in 2011.
“It’s long past time for Canada to do the same,” Small says.
CN is one of 28 Canadian companies involved in arms sales to Saudi Arabia and named in an open letter delivered to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Monday urging an end to Canada’s weapons sales to Saudi Arabia and other Middle Eastern countries taking part in the war in Yemen.
The letter penned by the Canada-Wide Peace and Justice Network and signed by some 68 organizations, is also calling on the Canadian government to increase humanitarian aid to Yemen.
Now entering its sixth year, the Saudi-led war has killed almost a quarter of a million people and displaced some four million more people.
UN agencies and humanitarian organizations say the continued sale of arms to Saudi Arabia is prolonging hostilities.
Last week, Karina Gould, Canada’s Minister of International Development, announced some $69.9 million in humanitarian aid to the country in 2021.
“Yemen is undergoing the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, and its people deserve decisive action,” Gould says. “Their suffering must end and their rights and dignity must be protected. We must do everything possible to make this happen.”
But human rights groups point out that Canada has exported some $6 billion in arms to Saudi Arabia since 2015 at the same time as its delivering aid to Yemen. According to the Export of Military Goods report, Canada exported some $2.7 billion worth of arms to Saudi Arabia in 2019.