The Canadian prime minister may have condemned the actions of the Saudi regime, but his position over light-armoured vehicle sales to the kingdom tells us everything we need to know
By Robert Fisk
Almost 5,000 miles from the city in which his corpse was secretly buried – in one piece or in bits – by his Saudi killers, Jamal Khashoggi’s murder now rattles the scruples and the purse-strings of yet another country. For Canada, land of the free and liberal conscience – especially under Justin Trudeau – is suddenly confronted by the fruits of the bright young prime minister’s Conservative predecessors and a simple question of conscience for cash: should Trudeau tear up a 2014 military deal with Saudi Arabia worth $12bn?
When Ottawa decided to sell its spanking new light armoured vehicles (LAVs) to the Saudi kingdom, the Saudis already had a well-earned reputation for chopping off heads and supporting raving and well-armed Islamists. But Mohammed bin Salman had not yet ascended the crown princedom of this pious state. The Saudis had not yet invaded Yemen, chopped off the heads of its Shia leaders, imprisoned its own princes, kidnapped the Lebanese prime minister and dismembered Khashoggi.
So the Conservative Canadian government of Stephen Harper had no scruples about flogging off its LAVs – as these little armoured monsters are called – to Riyadh, specifically for the “transport and protection” of government officials.
Now you can hardly accuse Trudeau of being a supporter of the Saudi regime. Back in August, Mohammed bin Salman’s lads ordered the expulsion of the Canadian ambassador to Riyadh and closed down trade agreements with Canada after Trudeau’s foreign minister had complained about the arrest of women’s rights campaigners in the kingdom. The Canadians had made “false statements”, claimed the Saudis – whose own reputation for false statements would soon achieve proportions worthy of a Hollywood horror epic. Trudeau was in the Saudi doghouse as well as Washington’s because, only two months earlier, Trump had called him “dishonest and weak”.