​When Comments About Human Rights Create Trade Wars

Gary C. Bizzo  |


Canada is known as a negotiator, a friend to everyone and certainly a thoughtful leader of the world community.

It’s tough to pick a fight with us unless you’re President Trump or a bully from a third world country. We apologize for everything including when it’s not our fault.

Imagine my surprize at the furor caused by Canada’s Foreign Minister, Chrystia Freeland asking Saudi Arabia, in a general way, to release two Canadian women charged with inciting a riot for gender rights and protesting women not being allowed to drive. It’s so shameful to protest another country’s decision to punish and imprison its own citizens (with dual passports) for something we consider a basic human right – free choice!

Ah, but Saudi Arabia is not like any other country – they have immense wealth! No one wants to touch a nation, albeit governed by a despot and millennial Crown Prince looking to bolster his image as a tough guy. This was a clear message to the West that meddling in their domestic affairs was not welcome.

As a Canadian, I identify with the ‘blue hats’, the UN peacekeepers which we dutifully accomplish proudly. We don’t have the military to push agendas nor do we have the inclination to be the world’s policemen but we care about the quality of life for everyone.

Trudeau, who some feel have gone too far in his quest for human rights in Canada, has pushed for equality for everyone from indigenous peoples to the LGBTQ community as a way to create inclusion in Canada. He will be the first to admit that we are to perfect.

The despot in Saudi Arabia, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS), wants an apology because we pointed out their human rights violations to the world. This 31 year old has recently kidnapped Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri, who was locked up after flying to Saudi Arabia for a camping trip with MBS. Let’s not forget the 600+ beheadings since 2014 for not being in tune with the government and women being treated like chattel.

It’s enough to make one take to arms, well, except that I am a Canadian, we don’t do things like that. We do, however, apparently sell arms to other countries.

I was a licensed arms dealer for a time and the definition of our country’s arms deal to Saudi Arabia of $14B worth of armoured personnel carriers is laughable. Arms are usually guns, missiles, and weapons of mass destruction. The carriers were, however, used to stifle democratic gathering/protests against a totalitarian regime.

In 2014, Stephen Harper had signed the $14-billion deal to manufacture armoured vehicles for the Saudis in a London, Ont., factory that had previously built vehicles for the Canadian military in Afghanistan.

So, from the short Tweet from Freeland came sanctions from Saudi Arabia (SA). Our ambassadors were recalled, SA stopped orders of wheat, all Canadian assets owned by SA were to be sold at whatever price they could get and all students studying in one of the freest democracies in the world were told to come home.

If there was ever a time to give people refugee status it would be to give it to the students attending our liberal universities, leasing cars and apartments trying to make for a better life.

According to MacLeans, Stephen Maher, the Saudi’s launched an anti-Canada social media campaign, the highlight of which was a semi-official Twitter account sending an image of a passenger plane headed for the CN Tower, threatening a terrorist attack on Toronto.

Personally, I’d like the Canadian government to be more hard-lined; to figure a way to stop the General Dynamics delivery of the armoured carriers to the Saudi’s, to tell them to find their wheat and other products somewhere else.

We’re doing well without the US’ $16B worth of trade, maybe it’s time for us to follow Trump’s example and write off Saudi Arabia as a trading partner too.

The funny thing is the world is not behind us – why? Well it is very simple even though Canada is second to SA in oil reserves we still buy 10% of our oil from them. The USA and other EU countries won’t upset the Saudi’s because they want the oil and the US wants the $300B in arms deals to continue.

It’s all about trade because human rights issues and the basics of humanity mean nothing but talking points to foreign ministers unless you put your money where your mouth is.

The two things the Saudi’s didn’t embargo with Canada were the armoured carriers (weapons) and oil. Those were pretty obvious choices to a Crown Prince with delusions of power.

Let’s be honest, the Saudi’s aren’t friends of the West. Most say they were behind 9/11, They have destabilized the Middle East and appear to be using Canadian weapons against Yemenis and their own Shia minority.

So here we are, with a sudden trade war because the Saudi Foreign Minister said, “Canada made a big mistake.” They want us to apologize for saying they were holding people unfairly as recognized by the UN and not one country is backing Canada – shameful!

As US leaders have been fond of saying over the years, the “action was a proportionate response” but in this case the Crown Prince was looking for a fight. The trade war was in reaction to a Tweet and the Saudi reaction is beyond a normal one.

I guess the anger in me is not from the actions of a power-seeking nut in Arabia surrounded by equally unstable people but from the lack of response from a world community. A part of me sees the value in Trump’s isolationist policy with respect to trade but the self-interests of each country must be outweighed by the realization that human rights are just that – the rights of everyone to live in peace and harmony.

Gary is a Management Consultant and Social Media Influencer in Vancouver. He is an outspoken Canadian by nature.

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