The Canadian government is investigating reports that Saudi Arabia is using armoured vehicles made in Canada against its own civilians – allegations that have prompted renewed scrutiny over Ottawa’s recent decision to sign off on a billion-dollar arms deal with the kingdom.
Videos and photos posted on social media in recent days allegedly show Riyadh using Canadian equipment in a violent crackdown on minority Shia dissidents in eastern Saudi Arabia. Last week at least five people were killed as security forces flushed out suspected militants in the town of Awamiya.
Several sources told the Canadian newspaper the Globe and Mail that the vehicles being used appeared to be Gurkha RPVs made in Ontario by Terradyne Armoured Vehicles.
Canadian officials said they were deeply concerned by the reports. “We are looking at these claims very seriously … and have immediately launched a review,” Justin Trudeau told reporters.
In 2016, Saudi Arabia ranked among the largest importers of Canada-made military goods, purchasing more than C$142m worth of goods – nearly 20% of all Canadian military exports that year.
The ministry of global affairs said it was concerned over the escalating violence in eastern Saudi Arabia. In a statement issued last week, it highlighted the causalities among civilians and security forces and urged Riyadh to confront its security challenges in “a manner that abides by international human rights law”.
Days later, the ministry said the government was actively seeking more information about the reports of civilian casualties and claims that Canadian-made vehicles were involved. “If it is found that Canadian exports have been used to commit serious violations of human rights, the minister will take action,” a spokesperson for department told the Guardian. He did not answer questions around what kinds of actions this could entail.
Terradyne Armoured Vehicles did not respond to a request for comment.
The allegations have prompted renewed calls for Trudeau’s Liberal government to scrap a recent decision to push forward with a 15-year contract to supply Saudi Arabia with weaponised armoured vehicles made by General Dynamics, another Ontario-based company.