Ethical Considerations Regarding Canada-Saudi Arms Deal

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Canada is not a superpower, politically, economically, or militarily, therefore much of our ability to stand on a strong negotiating position in international political and economic affairs stems primarily from Canada reputation as a nation with a strong obligation to ethical governance, as well as a safeguard of the human rights of every collective, regardless of ethnicity, nationality, gender, sexuality, or religion. As our place in international politics is primarily a multilateral one, Canada must be seen as a desirable and ethical nation to ally with in both trade and political unions. Our record of providing troops for UN peacekeeping missions in the twentieth century, legislation legalizing gay marriage in 2005, the earliest country to do so outside Europe, and Pierre Trudeau’s policy of making Canada an official multicultural nation-state was often commonly provided as empirical evidence to substantiate our claims of moral responsibility. Unfortunately, many of the recent current developments in Canadian federal and international politics may be enough to start an unwelcome desecration of this prestige. If this is to be the outcome, perhaps one of the most significant contributing factors to the decay of this reputation may be the recently constructed arms deal with Saudi Arabia.

The fifteen billion dollar that was struck between the Harper administration- now inherited by the Liberal party -and the middle eastern theocracy involved approximately nine hundred armoured vehicles specifically made for combat. Canada cannot present itself as a ethically and morally responsible participant in international affairs while also acting as a trading partner with a nation whose military involvement in Yemen has caused the death of over ten thousand people and the malicious displacement of over three million. It must also be acknowledged that Saudi Arabia regularly violates the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human, a document that over forty countries are signatories to, despite being on the United Nations Human Rights Council and chair of the Humans Rights advisory committee. These violations most notably are expressed in Saudi Arabian jurisprudence in regards to capital punishment. An archaic discipline that is conducted by way of public beheading, or stoning for adultery. Some of the “crimes” the Saudi Arabian judiciary theoretically allows either the head of state or a judge to prescribe these punishments for are atheism, blasphemous acts or statements, adultery, homosexuality, or witchcraft. These superstitious and draconian maltreatments reflects Saudi Arabian state endorsed ideals of sexism, anti-secularism, religious inequality, gender inequality, and inequality regarding sexual orientation. Saudi Arabia’s anachronistic brand of jingoistic foreign policy shown in their involvement in Yemen, as well as the human rights abuses that have been intrinsic to their internal governance deserve nothing less than the unequivocal collective denouncement of Canada’s representatives. Excluding this, the Liberal party and Prime Minister Trudeau’s self professed obligation to egalitarian foreign and internal policy may rightfully be seen as hypocritical if they are to actively be complicit in one of the world’s most barbaric oppressors of women, as the current party in opposition has done in the past. A view of Canada as described will significantly impede our ability to present ourselves as an ethical multilateral participant in geopolitics, and to be genuine in doing so. Issue: Potential systematic violation of constitutional civil liberties due to Bill C-51.Perspective: Values/beliefs.

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American hegemony is an unfortunate precept that influences too many aspects of Canadian living. In politics, one of the most glaring and recent examples of this is Bill C-51, also known as the Anti-Terrorism Act. This legislation, passed by the previous Conservative government, received royal assent on June 18th, 2018. The Act, intended to lengthen the influence Canadian government agencies had when pertaining to the sharing of information of individuals, has been accused by many Canadian citizens, political analysts, and even individuals in Canadian intelligence agencies as being in direct conflict with many of the rights guaranteed by the Charter of Rights and Freedom. Such rights that are potentially put in jeopardy by this act are outlined in the following sections of the Charter; section two, guaranteeing fundamental freedoms like freedom of thought, belief, and expression, section eight, guaranteeing the right against unreasonable search and seizure, and possibly section seven, legal maxims in large part derived from John Locke’s natural rights, life, liberty and security of person. Relating to the bill as a byproduct of Canada’s somewhat hegemonic relationship with the United States, the Anti-Terrorism Act has often times been compared to the equally unconstitutional American legislation passed by the Bush administration in response to 9/11 known as the Patriot Act.

The Act of congress expanded the reach and legality of United States intelligence agencies conducting domestic and foreign surveillance, and was later revealed by the Edward Snowden NSA leaks to have in large part been the catalyst for the induction of systematized mass data collection within American governmental agencies. Like Bill C-51, there are many sections of the American constitution that the Patriot Act violates, namely the following; the fourth amendment, which states that any law enforcement agency, investigation agency, or any other definable branch of government cannot conduct a search on an individual with a warrant substantiated by probable cause, the fifth amendment, by not requiring law enforcement agencies to provide notice to the individuals that they are currently suspected in a criminal investigation, and partly the first amendment, for allowing American intelligence agencies to conduct investigations into U.S citizens for exercising their freedom of speech.

The commonalities between the anti-terrorism act and the Patriot Act are self-evident, as is the latter’s role in allowing at least one U.S intelligence agency to actively violate constitutionally guaranteed rights as proved by the aforementioned Snowden leaks. As one of the main intents behind the passing of Bill C-51 was to grant more extensive power to Canadian intelligence agencies, most notably CSIS, it is not unlikely that the Bill will have similar negative effects to the Patriot Act, providing that these effects have not been institutionalized already. To substantiate the accusation that the Anti-Terrorism Act has an unconstitutional basis, the Charter states in section one of the document that the state has the right to limit civil liberties if and only if those restrictions are “demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society.” The Conservative party who proposed this legislation, and the Liberal party in opposition at the time who voted in favour of it, have yet to explain why they feel that the violation of Canadian civil liberties is justified in the face of the arguably overstated danger of foreign terrorist organizations. It must also be stated that even if the Canadian federal legislature has the obligation to take a strictly pragmatic approach when discussing legislation, it is possible that this Bill will not be as efficacious in strengthening Canadian counter-terrorism, counter intelligence and preventing terrorist attacks as the proponents of the bill would claim. This notion can be sustained by again conducting further analysis of the U.S Patriot Act. The Bill was hastily passed the month after the september eleven attacks, and was made to ensure that a coordinated attack of similar scale could never occur again on American soil.

However, it could be called into question if the Congressional act was effective at all. In May of 2015, current Inspector General at the U.S Department of Justice, Michael Horowitz, said in a seventy seven page report just before the Patriot Act was about to expire, “The agents we interviewed did not identify any major case developments that resulted from use of the records obtained in response to Section 215 orders,” Section 215 of the Patriot Act was the aspect of the Bill that allowed FBI to confiscate records from third parties, such as telephone companies or internet service providers. Given the paranoia following the 9/11 attacks, it is understandable why there were those who thought that extreme preventative measures must be taken. Now almost two decades have passed and these measures are regularly and justifiably criticized for being overreaching, for implementing too little oversight for ethical infractions, as well as being ineffective. The Anti-Terrorism act shares far too many similarities with the equally flawed Patriot Act to have any reasonable defence of the intentionally vague and overly broad sweeping powers it grants to Canadian intelligence agencies.

The Bill puts in jeopardy some of the most fundamental principles that form the frame of Canadian democracy for methods that have been disproven repeatedly in this decade and the last one, making it not only an issue on the legality of mass surveillance, but a question of national security and the ethical considerations that must go along with them.Ideologically, I am a social liberal with slight deviations from modern liberal leaders. I believe that the role of the state is first and foremost to protect the rights and liberties of their citizens and to adhere to the general will of the people unless in cases where that will would neglect minority collectives. Although I think many of the detractors of Trudeau and his administration are excessively alarmist and oppose for the sake of opposition, I do have certain misgivings in regards to how he has handled certain acts of policy, particularly the ones pertaining to the promises he made during his campaign. If the assignment specified to write on three controversial issues within Canadian politics, I likely would have chosen electoral reform, which I believe the current Liberal party has not sufficiently acted on. I also find cause to complain that the Liberal party has not amended Bill C-51 as extensively as I would have liked, the Act serves no discernible benefit to the safeguarding of the rights of Canadians and required significant modification if not outright abrogation.


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