A Canadian company sells armoured cars in countries gripped by civil wars. CBC aired a program last week about the activities of the Streit Group, which faced UN criticism for selling the vehicles in Libya and South Sudan. Edmund Yakan, a prominent South Sudanese activist, told CBC that Canada must take action to hold the company accountable.
"A Canadian-owned company is fuelling the violence more … I think the company has to be held accountable," Yakan said.
UN investigators monitoring sanctions in both countries criticized the deals, and human rights groups in this country have said the sales have either directly or indirectly contributed to the escalation of violence and possible human rights abuses. A UN report criticized the Streit Group. UN investigators privately raised concern Streit's activities in Libya constituted a violation of sanctions. But leaked shipping records and sales delivery schedules obtained by CBC News show the company didn't heed the advice to stop its armoured car shipments to the troubled North African nation. At least 79 Typhoon and Spartan patrol vehicles were delivered to the effectively lawless nation in 2014, according to records obtained from highly placed sources. A separate report and a series of leaked documents — obtained by CBC News — show 173 armoured vehicles destined for the police in South Sudan in 2014 were diverted for army use in the brutal ongoing civil war.
Streit, which has a plant in Innisfil, Ont., north of Toronto, shipped hundreds of armoured patrol vehicles into both South Sudan and Libya — trucks that were later outfitted with weapons and used by the South Sudanese military and Libyan militias. The practice in the arms trade known as diversion — when equipment is allegedly sold for a benign purpose but ends up being used for fighting — is illegal under international law and specifically prohibited by an international arms trade treaty.
According to reports tabled in June in Parliament, Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird signed off on $2.68 million in armoured vehicle export sales to Libya during 2012-13, the same time frame the UN was investigating. Officials in the now-renamed department Global Affairs Canada wouldn't say which company's export approval was involved, only that the sales were "not prohibited by existing United Nations sanctions on Libya." But UN investigators clearly disagree.
Canada’s Global Affairs Department said the Streit deals fell outside of Canada's arms export regime because most of the vehicles were shipped from the company's branch in the United Arab Emirates. The department would not commit to closing the loophole that allows Canadian companies with foreign offices to sell military-grade equipment outside of the country with less scrutiny than deals conducted from home. Justin Trudeau campaigned on a promise to make Canada a force for good and a champion of human rights on the international stage. Human rights groups say it's hard to argue Canada is contributing to calm and stability through peacekeeping in trouble spots when it allows companies to sell military-grade equipment that can be used to intensify wars.
"These transfers that went forward in South Sudan and in Libya undermine the integrity to Canada's commitment to conflict prevention and as we move forward, we need to ensure we have tighter laws, regulations and oversight mechanisms to make sure these sorts of situations aren't repeated," said Alex Neve, secretary general of Amnesty International Canada.
If you seek to end the arms trade and capitalism contact:
Socialist Party of Canada
PO Box 31024,Victoria, British Columbia, Canada,V8N 6J3.