Protesters Demand Canada Cancel $15Bln Saudi Contract after Sheikh Nimr Execution
TEHRAN (Tasnim) – Hundreds of protesters in the Canadian capital of Ottawa demanded the cancellation of an arms deal with Riyadh, worth some $15 billion, after Saudi Arabia executed the revered Shiite religious figure Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr and 46 others.
The protesters, drawn mainly from Muslim groups in Toronto, Montreal and Ottawa, staged peaceful demonstrations at the base of the Peace Tower, and outside the embassies of the United States and Saudi Arabia.
They called on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to take meaningful action to condemn the Saudis for their flagrant human rights abuses — even if it means damaging Canadian commercial and political interests.
“We’re here today to ask the government to rethink its policy when it comes to Saudi Arabia,” said Toronto Imam Asad Jafri, one of the protesters. “The hypocrisy has to stop.”
The Saudi government executed 47 people on Saturday, sparking outrage across many parts of the Middle East, including Iran.
Earlier this week, Foreign Affairs Minister Stéphane Dion announced that the Liberals would not rescind the contract negotiated by the former Conservative government to supply light armoured vehicles to the Saudis.
“Almost all of our allies are selling weapons to Saudi Arabia,” he argued on Tuesday. “It’s part of the world in which we live.”
Although Dion denounced Riyadh for the mass execution, he said Canada would damage its own reputation by scrapping the contract.
Protesters demanded Wednesday that the Liberal government pay more than lip service to the protection of human rights, Ottawa Citizen newspaper reported on Wednesday.
“I was disappointed by the government,” said protester Adil Rizvi, from Toronto. “Their words do no match their actions. We realize it’s a big contract, but we really feel we shouldn’t be compromising when those jobs are created by the blood of other people.”
“Saudi Arabia is one of the worst violators of human rights in the world,” he said. “And the light armoured vehicles being manufactured here in Ontario are being shipped to Saudi Arabia to quell a just uprising.”
Asad Jafri called the $15 billion deal with Saudis “hurtful”.
Jaffar Hasmhi, a protest organizer from Ottawa’s Muslim Society, said Canada should also push to have the Saudis stripped of their position on the United Nations Human Rights Council. The Saudis were voted onto the council in what some British politicians allege was a secret vote-trading deal in 2013.
“In their own country, they’re abusing their own people so how can they judge other nations?” asked Hashmi. “It makes no sense that a country that starts this new year by executing 47 people is on the UN Human Rights Council.”
Meanwhile, the Ontario Public Service Employees Union has repeated criticism of Algonquin College for operating a technical college inside Saudi Arabia.
Algonquin professor Jack Wilson, an OPSEU vice president, said it’s “improper for (Algonquin) to be dealing with a regime that so flagrantly violates basic human rights.”
In 2013, Algonquin opened a men’s-only vocational college in Jazan, 77 kilometres from the border of Yemen. Wilson said there are now heightened security concerns in the area since Saudi Arabia has been launching airstrikes into Yemen.