Transport Minister Marc Garneau, the MP for NDG-Westmount, told a town hall last week that Canadians should be patient while the federal government determines whether it will sell LAVs (light armoured vehicles) to Saudi Arabia.
The Minister’s town hall took place this past Thursday at Westmount’s Victoria Hall, and attracted a large audience and numerous questions from constituents, regarding his government’s priorities on transport, citizenship, trade with China, gender equality among other topics.
The question about Saudi Arabia came in light of the global outrage in response to the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi embassy in Turkey. Also, Saudi Arabia reacted harshly to public criticism of its human rights record by Canada earlier this year.
One constituent pointed out that Garneau had identified Canada’s image in the world as a priority for his government, as well as its advocacy for human rights.
“The issue of the sale of the LAV... really gets under my craw,” the constituent said.
“We’ll be reviewing that,” Garneau replied.
“I understand that, but things have been reviewed for a long time,” said the questioner. “The last I heard is it’s still going to go through because it’s some super secret deal that...”
Garneau interjected, saying no one should jump to any conclusions.
“We’re reviewing it at the moment, and I would ask you to be patient,” the Minister said.
“For how long?” the questioner asked.
“We have to look at something as complicated as that thoroughly, and when we are in a position to make a decision, we will make it public,” Garneau replied. “I can assure you that we are looking at this very extensively.”
The Minister made reference to Khashoggi’s murder, Saudi Arabia’s human rights record and its current war with Yemen.
Another questioner, an immigrant from Iran, pleaded for help, saying he has not been able to attain citizenship more than four years after applying.
“Prime Minister Trudeau promised to change the immigration and citizenship laws,” the questioner said. “In my case, it hasn’t been done, for some unknown reason. In Prime Minister Harper’s time, the maximum time for this kind of application was three years maximum. Now, I don’t know what to do.”
Garneau replied that Canada values immigration and is increasing its acceptance of immigrants from 310,000 to 350,000 a year by 2021, but that Iran is a special case.
“Canada is a country that needs immigration, and we have a shortage of manpower in provinces like Quebec,” he added. “Iran is a difficult case. I’ve met many Iranians who have the same situation as you. We don’t have an embassy in Tehran for a number of reasons that go back a ways.
“And when immigrants apply, we have to go through a whole set of processes before we accept someone to be an immigrant. It is particularly challenging in the case of Iran because of the lack of communication and the ability for us to do things like background checks. I feel for Iranians who are in that difficult situation.”