Although I will admit that I was pleasantly surprised, I really shouldn't have been. It is the duty of each of the members of that group to defend the free and open expression of ideas; namely, free speech. To not do this would be the height of hypocrisy. They would be no better than Saudi Arabia, which either refuses to admit their human rights violations or perhaps has no clue what human rights even mean. Honestly, I'm beginning to wonder.
I was also surprised today to find this refreshing tweet from Office of Religious Freedom Ambassador Andrew Bennett.
Proud that Canada defended @center4inquiry right to speak in Human Rights Council on Raif Badawi case today.
— Ambassador Bennett (@FreedomReligion) June 23, 2014
He did good with that tweet.
However, it's really not enough. The Canadian representative -- what's his name? -- was acting in his professional capacity and representing his country officially. That was Canada's position.
I've been pretty rough on Bennett over the years because although he seems to promise that his agency will defend the freedoms of atheists alongside those of the religious, I have yet to find any direct evidence of this. My last post on this pretty much sums up my feelings that we're completely on our own - the Office of Religious Freedom seems to only be interested in protecting the rights of the religious, our Minister of Foreign Affairs doesn't seem to believe atheists require protecting and there is no special human rights agency for non-religious people.
So is this tweet progress? Well, perhaps a little, but it's still just a tweet. Is it the position of Canada or just Bennett's personal opinion? It certainly carries none of the weight of an official press release. The Office of Religious Freedom make quite a few releases; several a month. You'll find zero releases defending atheists.
So why the silence about Raif Badawi? What with his wife and children here in Canada already? Why doesn't Canada denounce Saudi Arabia officially? I'll don my tinfoil hat here for a moment.
Look, I'm not saying it's the entire reason, but there is this armored vehicle contract with Saudi Arabia that was won recently. It's only the largest in Canada's history. It's gigantic.
Largest Advanced Manufacturing Export Win in Canada’s History
February 14, 2014 - London, Ontario - Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development CanadaAww... A multi-billion dollar "Valentines Day gift" from human-rights-crushing Saudi Arabia to the Harper Government(tm) and General Dynamics Land Systems-Canada. I wonder if the police in the kingdom will use the armoured vehicles to crush their own population in future protests?
The Honourable Ed Fast, Minister of International Trade, and Danny Deep, Vice President, General Dynamics Land Systems-Canada, announced today a historic multi-billion dollar contract win for vehicles and associated equipment, training and support services.
The announcement was made in London, Ontario, where the light armoured vehicles will be designed and manufactured and which will become the epicentre of a cross-Canada supply chain directly benefiting more than 500 local Canadian firms.
This 14-year contract will create and sustain more than 3,000 jobs each year in Canada, with southern Ontario accounting for approximately 40 percent of the supply base.
Facilitated by the Canadian Commercial Corporation (CCC), the Government of Canada’s international government-to-government contracting organization, the contract is with Saudi Arabia, a priority market under the government’s new Global Markets Action Plan.
I'm sorry, I forgot to specify which kingdom I was referring to. I mean the one in the Middle East, not in Ottawa. Easy mistake, I know.
So perhaps by next Valentines Day, the Saudi religious police can use these vehicles to dramatically crash into florist shops and wrench flowers and chocolates away from terrified people who wish to make gifts to their loved ones -- or perhaps just use the guns to blow them to pieces? The LAV III -- brochure here -- comes with a M242 Bushmaster 25mm cannon, a secondary C6 7.62mm co-axial machine gun along with supplementary Mag58 turret top MG in swing mount and 76mm smoke grenade dischargers. That last item seems like it would be great for riot dispersal and the brochure promises great Supportability and affordability.
Speaking of affordability, just how many are we talking about? A CBC story covering this back in February lets us know the deal is a paltry $10,000,000,000 USD. I suppose a cheque like that would make anyone think twice before upsetting the client with little concerns about the human rights of their population. Oh, and if you're American, don't think you can get off easily -- the contract is actually a US-Saudi deal that involves Canadian manufacturing plants in Ontario.
Neither the Canadian government nor GDLS has been so far willing to say how many of the sophisticated weapons systems will be built for the government of Saudi Arabia, but a $10-billion US deal could buy many hundreds of vehicles.Isn't that great? But I'm certain that a country with a human rights record with Saudi Arabia would never dream to turn armoured vehicles on their own population.
"Saudi Arabia stepped up arrests, trials, and convictions of peaceful dissidents, and forcibly dispersed peaceful demonstrations by citizens in 2013," the report said.Is there a direct connection with Raif Badawi? Probably not, but there could be a general sort of blanket policy that ruffling Saudi feathers is bad for business. Or perhaps it's all a big coincidence. But isn't money amazing?
"Authorities continued to violate the rights of nine million Saudi women and girls and nine million foreign workers ... As in past years, authorities subjected thousands of people to unfair trials and arbitrary detention."
Saudi Arabia permits beheading and stoning as forms of criminal punishment for murder and rape, alongside social crimes such as adultery. Homosexual acts are also punishable by death, flogging and imprisonment, as is drug use. Saudi Arabia is also regularly condemned for its treatment of women, who will earn the right to vote in 2015, but who will still be disallowed from driving cars — or armoured vehicles, for that matter.
I'm waiting for Andrew Bennett or John Baird to prove me wrong.