The ongoing diplomatic dispute between Canada and Saudi Arabia is a tragic reflection of the catastrophic abuses of human rights in our world today – but not in the way presented by Canadian political leaders and the corporate media. The Communist Party of Canada says that this situation reveals the hypocrisy of both sides, neither of which has any claim to moral superiority.
The current dispute arose after Minister of Foreign Affairs Chrystia Freeland issued a Twitter statement on August 2 expressing “Canada’s concern” over Saudi human rights activists Samar Badawi, who was recently arrested, Rauf Badawi, who is in prison. Other Canadian diplomats and the Canadian Embassy in Riyadh released similar statements, calling for the release of all other peaceful human rights activists in the country.
Saudi Arabia responded by suspending all new trade and investment relations; expelling the Canadian ambassador and recalling its own envoy to Canada; instructing staff to sell off all Canadian holdings, including equities, bonds and cash; ordering all 16,000 students in Canada on Saudi Arabian scholarships to relocate to another country or risk losing financial assistance; and moving all Saudi patients receiving care in Canadian hospitals to other countries.
But while the Liberal government claims to take a principled stand in defense of human rights activists in Saudi Arabia, it refuses to condemn the vicious war in Yemen by a Saudi-led coalition, which bombed a school bus in Yemen’s capital city on August 9, killing 41 civilians including dozens of children. Similarly, the Liberal government maintains close diplomatic and economic links with Israel, which for over half a century has killed and jailed tens of thousands of Palestinians while expanding its apartheid-style occupation policies on occupied territories. Any government which was truly concerned about human rights in the Middle East would speak out strongly against the actions of Saudi Arabia and its allies in Yemen and elsewhere, and against the Israeli occupation of Palestine.
Instead, Canada has sold $15 billion worth of military vehicles to the Saudi regime, and remains a close ally and partner of Israel and its chief source of support, US imperialism. Cosmetic gestures such as a tweet about the arrest of Saudi activists, or the occasional feeble criticism of Israeli violations of human rights and international law, do not change the fundamental reality: Canada is deeply implicated in the oppression of the peoples of the Middle East by US imperialism, zionist Israel, and Saudi Arabia and the other reactionary Gulf regimes.
The Communist Party also stresses that despite Canada’s image as a land of democracy and freedom, human rights activists are frequently the subjects of surveillance, political harassment, arrest, and imprisonment in this country. Minister Freeland herself is an outspoken supporter of the far-right Ukrainian regime, which is responsible for massive violations of human rights in that country. As long as Freeland remains Foreign Affairs Minister, her tweets and pronouncements ring hollow, to say the least.
The Communist Party of Canada demands that the Liberal government cancel all arms sales to the Saudi regime, which conducts brutal aggression against other countries and denies full equality for women and minority groups. We further demand that the federal government should immediately expel Israeli diplomats, impose boycotts, divestment and sanctions on Israel, and pressure Israel and the US to adhere to the internationally recognized framework for a peaceful political solution based on dismantling the apartheid wall and ending the sanctions against Gaza; implementation of UN Security Council resolutions 242 and 338; and the establishment of a Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as the capital, based on the 1967 boundaries, with the guaranteed right of return to Palestinians.
Central Executive Committee, Communist Party of Canada