Dear Brother Yussuff:
Saudi Arabia and its coalition partners are waging war in Yemen. The war has plunged the country into what the United Nations (UN) calls “the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.”
Canada is complicit in the war in Yemen. The export of Canadian-made light armoured vehicles (LAVs) to Saudi Arabia, an approximately $15-billion contract originally signed by the Conservative government of Stephen Harper, is now proceeding under export permits approved by the Liberal government of Justin Trudeau.
In April 2016, the Canadian Labour Congress endorsed an open letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, which expressed profound concerns about the issuance of export permits for Canada’s arms deal with Saudi Arabia, “despite flagrant incompatibilities of this contract with the human rights safeguards of our export controls.” The letter urged Prime Minister Trudeau to rescind this “immoral and unethical” decision.
Since then, the silence of the CLC has been deafening.
On this issue, Canada’s labour movement is uniquely situated to bring pressure to bear on the Liberal government. While Amnesty International, Oxfam Canada, and other civil society organizations have called for the cancellation of the arms deal, it is unionized Canadian workers—in manufacturing plants, on railways, and in ports—who have the power to stop the production and shipment of weapons of war to the Saudi regime.
In December 2018 members of the International Longshoremen’s Association Local 273 courageously refused to cross a picket line at the Port of Saint John, where peace activists had assembled to protest the arrival of the Bahri Yanbu, a Saudi cargo ship scheduled to transport Canadian-made LAVs to their destination in Saudi Arabia. And in the past few weeks, union dockworkers in the Italian Port of Genoa and the French Port of Marseilles Fos made international headlines when they refused to move, load, or help ship military cargo destined for Saudi Arabia.
Brother Yussuff, we call on the CLC to demand Prime Minister Trudeau immediately cancel the Government of Canada’s arms deal with Saudi Arabia, and further, we call on the CLC to declare military goods destined for Saudi Arabia as “hot cargo” and use its considerable resources to coordinate labour movement opposition to this arms deal. Yemen can’t wait.
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