Open Letter to CLC President Hassan Yussuff on labour opposition to Canada-Saudi arms deal

A man walks past a graffiti, depicting drone strikes by the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen (File photo)

President Hassan Yussuff
Canadian Labour Congress
2841 Riverside Drive
Ottawa, ON K1V 8X7


June 26, 2019

Re: Open Letter to CLC President Hassan Yussuff on labour opposition to Canada-Saudi arms deal

SIGN THE PETITION YOURSELF HERE

Dear Brother Yussuff:

We, the undersigned, are calling on the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC), in the most urgent terms possible, to express public opposition to the Government of Canada’s arms deal with Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabia and its coalition partners are waging war in Yemen. The war has plunged the country into what the United Nations (UN) calls “the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.” According to a recent UN report, approximately 70,000 Yemenis have died since the beginning of 2016. At the moment, three civilians are killed every day in Yemen. Hospitals, schools, markets, and mosques are common targets for Saudi coalition airstrikes. Two thirds of the Yemeni population require humanitarian support or protection, 17 million are food insecure, three million have fled their homes, and 14.5 million require access to safe drinking water—and as UN Women has found, women and girls bear the brunt of this devastating situation. A 2018 report of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights concluded that violations and crimes under international law have occurred and continue to be perpetrated in Yemen. A report by Amnesty International documented that parties to the conflict are obstructing the delivery of essential goods and humanitarian aid, in contravention of international law. While Yemen’s workers are trapped between hunger and war, Yemeni trade unions have called for peace.

Canada is complicit in the war in Yemen. The export of Canadian-made light armoured vehicles (LAVs) to Saudi Arabia, an approximately $15-billion contract originally signed by the Conservative government of Stephen Harper, is now proceeding under export permits approved by the Liberal government of Justin Trudeau. Although new export permits for arms shipments to Saudi Arabia have reportedly been suspended pending an indefinite review by the Trudeau government following the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, according to recent data from Statistics Canada over half a billion dollars worth of armoured fighting vehicles have been exported through the Port of Saint John to Saudi Arabia in 2019 alone. There is credible evidence that Canadian weapons sold to Saudi Arabia are being used in the devastating war in Yemen. And while the Saudi-led coalition continues to commit serious violations of international humanitarian and human rights law in Yemen, Saudi Arabia also has a persistent record of serious violations of the human rights of its citizens.

In April 2016, the Canadian Labour Congress—through its membership in the Canadian Council for International Co-operation (CCIC) and as part of coalition of human-rights, development and arms-control groups—endorsed an open letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, which expressed profound concerns about the issuance of export permits for Canada’s arms deal with Saudi Arabia, “despite flagrant incompatibilities of this contract with the human rights safeguards of our export controls.” The letter urged Prime Minister Trudeau to rescind this “immoral and unethical” decision.

Since then, the silence of the CLC has been deafening.

On this issue, Canada’s labour movement is uniquely situated to bring pressure to bear on the Liberal government. While Amnesty International, Oxfam Canada, and other civil society organizations have called for the cancellation of the arms deal, it is unionized Canadian workers—in manufacturing plants, on railways, and in ports—who have the power to stop the production and shipment of weapons of war to the Saudi regime.

In the face of the global climate crisis, migration crisis, and a political crisis in which right-wing politicians demonize migrants and refugees while pushing an agenda of austerity, environmental destruction, and war that drives displacement and migration, the CLC must stand for a green, peaceful, socially just economy where good jobs do not depend on developing, building, and shipping weapons of war.

Labour can and must be a voice for peace. Working with peace activists and human rights organizations, unions in Denmark, Finland, Germany, and Norway have successfully pressured their respective governments to suspend Saudi arms transfers. Here in Canada, in December 2018 members of the International Longshoremen’s Association (ILA) Local 273 courageously refused to cross a picket line at the Port of Saint John, where peace activists had assembled to protest the arrival of the Bahri Yanbu, a Saudi cargo ship scheduled to transport Canadian-made LAVs to their destination in Saudi Arabia. And in the past few weeks, union dockworkers in the Italian Port of Genoa and the French Port of Marseilles Fos made international headlines when they refused to move, load, or help ship military cargo destined for Saudi Arabia.

Brother Yussuff, we call on the CLC to demand Prime Minister Trudeau immediately cancel the Government of Canada’s arms deal with Saudi Arabia, and further, we call on the CLC to declare military goods destined for Saudi Arabia as “hot cargo” and use its considerable resources to coordinate labour movement opposition to this arms deal. Yemen can’t wait.

In solidarity,

Dr. Simon Black, Assistant Professor of Labour Studies, Brock University

Anthony Fenton, Ph.D. candidate in Political Science, York University

Organizations (in alphabetical order)

B.C. Government and Service Employees’ Union

Canadian Defenders for Human Rights

Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East

The Council of Canadians

The Council of Canadians, Saint John Chapter

The Rideau Institute

The Yemeni Community in Canada

Individuals (in alphabetical order)

Idil Abdillahi, Assistant Professor of Social Work, Ryerson University

Rawan Adelbaki, Ph.D. candidate in Sociology, York University

Shireen Al-Adeimi, Assistant Professor of Education, Michigan State University

Dr. Christo Aivalis, Postdoctoral Fellow, Department of History, University of Toronto

Greg Albo, Department of Politics, York University

Bruce R. Allen, peace activist, St. Catharines ON.

Sabah Alnasseri, Associate Professor, Department of Politics, York University

Ian Angus, Professor Emeritus of Humanities, Simon Fraser University

Sima Aprahamian, Ph.D., Research Associate, Simone de Beauvoir Institute at Concordia University

Niki Ashton, Member of Parliament for Churchill—Keewatinook Aski

Chris Bailey, Ph.D. candidate in Political Science, York University

Tyler Bancroft, Assistant Professor of Psychology, St. Thomas University

Brian Barker, Vice-President, Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario Niagara Region, Federal NDP candidate for Niagara Falls

Raluca Bejan, Assistant Professor of Social Work, St. Thomas University

Dr. Rusty Bitterman, Department of History, St. Thomas University

Marg Bizuk, Liftetime Member, Canadian Union of Postal Workers

Dr. Alison Braley-Rattai, Assistant Professor of Labour Studies, Brock University

Vincent Brassard, MA student, Université du Québec en Outaouais

Colleen Brzezicki, peace activist, Toronto ON.

Clint Burnham, Professor of English, Simon Fraser University

Dave Bush, editor at RankandFile.ca and member of OPSEU 5118

Jonah Butovsky, Associate Professor of Sociology, Brock University

Ernie Caissie, President, Unifor Local 4504

Gizem K. Cakmak, Ph.D. candidate in Sociology, York University

David Camfield, Member of Executive, Winnipeg Labour Council

Nathan Cecckin, member, Canadian Union of Public Employees 4207 and 9102

Irina Ceric, Professor of Criminology, Kwantlen Polytechnic University

Jasmine Chroley Foster, Ph.D. student in Political Science, University of Toronto

Agatha Cinader, peace activist, Toronto ON.

Thomas Collombat, Professeur Agrégé de Science Politique, Université du Québec en Outaouais

Dr. Kendra Coulter, Chair and Associate Professor of Labour Studies, Brock University

Elena Chou, Ph.D. candidate in Sociology, York University

Elaine Coburn, Assistant Professor in the Department of International Studies, Glendon Campus, York University

Franck Le Coroller, cameraman, Alliance Québécoise des Techniciens de l’Image et du Son

Radhika Desai, Professor, Department of Political Studies, University of Manitoba

Gene Desfor, Professor Emeritus, Faculty of Environmental Studies, York University

Rev. Dr. Cheri DiNovo, Trinity St. Paul’s Centre for Faith, Justice, and the Arts

Suzanne Dudziak, Associate Professor, St. Thomas University

Valerya Edelman, manager, Clinic 554

Dr. Barry Eidlin, Assistant Professor of Sociology, McGill University

Chuka Ejeckam, Political Science MA at UBC

Dr. Firoza Elavia, Canadian Union of Public Employees 3903

Tami J. Friedman, Associate Professor of History, Brock University

Fred Furlong, Canadian Union of Postal Workers

Rev’d Canon Dr. Kevin George, Rector, St. Aidan’s Anglican Church

Sam Gindin, Research Director of the Canadian Auto Workers from 1974-2000 and adjunct professor at York University

Jill Glessing, Canadian Union of Public Employees 3903

Tracy Glynn, Instructor, International Development Studies, University of New Brunswick

Todd Gordon, Assistant Professor of Law and Society, Wilfred Laurier University

Peter Graefe, Associate Professor of Political Science, McMaster University

Dr. Paul Gray, Assistant Professor of Labour Studies, Brock University

Matthew Green, federal NDP candidate for Hamilton Centre

Sylvia Hale, member, No One Is Illegal

Rebecca Hall, Assistant Professor of Global Development Studies, Queen’s University

Joel Harden, Member of Provincial Parliament for Ottawa-Centre

Jordan House, Ph.D. candidate in Political Science, York University

Gary R. Hughes, Ph.D., Professor (retired), St. Thomas University

Hassan Husseini, union activist, Unifor 2025

Dr. Derek Hrynyshyn, Department of Communication Studies, York University

Tareq Y. Ismael, Professor of Political Science, University of Calgary

Dr. Angela Joya, Assistant Professor of International Studies, University of Oregon

Janet Kandler, peace activist, Toronto ON.

Ilan Kapoor, Professor, Faculty of Environmental Studies, York University

Sumayya Kassamali, Postdoctoral Fellow, Center for the Humanities, Tufts University

Linda Karpowhich, Former President, Alberta Federation of Labour

Roger Keil, Professor, Faculty of Environmental Studies, York University

Dr. Adam King, Post-Doctoral Visitor in the Department of Politics, York University

Stefan Kipfer, Associate Professor, Faculty of Environmental Studies, York University

Norm Knight, New Brunswick Media Co-Op

Albert Kurian, documentary editor, Canadian Media Guild

Ruth Larson, peace activist

Sonia Lefeu, teacher

Evan Light, Assistant Professor of Communications, Glendon Campus, York University

Michael Lista, journalist

Martin Lukacs, journalist

David Mandel, Professor, Département de science politique, Université du Québec à Montréal

Peggy Mason, President of the Rideau Institute and former Canadian Ambassador to the United Nations for Disarmament

Kyle Matthews, Executive Director, Montreal Institute for Genocide and Human Rights Studies, Concordia University

Cindy McCallum Miller, Canadian Union of Postal Workers Prairie Region National Director (1996-2008)

Jeffrey Monaghan, Assistant Professor, Carelton University

Allyson May, lifetime member, Canadian Union of Postal Workers

Irene Marques, writer and university lecturer, Toronto ON.

John Measor, Research Fellow, International Center for Contemporary Middle East Studies

Felipe Montoya, Professor, Faculty of Environmental Studies, York University

Santiago Mora, Professor of Anthropology, St. Thomas University

Wayne Lewchuk, LIUNA Enrico Henry Mancinelli Professor in Global Labour Issues, McMaster University

Meg Luxton, Professor, York University

Glenn Michalchuk, Chair, Peace Alliance Winnipeg

Tanner Mirrlees, Associate Professor of Communication and Digital Media Studies, UOIT

Katherine Nastovksi, Associate, Institute on Globalization and the Human Condition, McMaster University

Joanna Newton, educator, Ontario English Catholic Teachers Association

Dr. Brian Noble, Associate Professor of Sociology and Social Anthropology, Dalhousie University

Derrick O’Keefe, former co-chair of the Canadian Peace Alliance

Ajay Parasram, Assistant Professor, Departments of International Development Studies and History, Dalhousie University

Dr. Thomas Parkhill, Professor (retired), St. Thomas University

Quinton Paul, President, Niagara Falls New Democratic Party

Justin Paulson, Associate Professor of Sociology, Carelton University

Joanne Penhale, peace activist, Toronto ON.

Peter Penz, Professor Emeritus, Faculty of Environmental Studies, York University

Patricia E. Perkins, Professor, Faculty of Environmental Studies, York University

Dr. Herbert Pimlott, Associate Professor, Department of Communication Studies, Wilfred Laurier University

Justin Podur, Associate Professor of Environmental Studies, York University

Dr. Geraldina Polanco, Assistant Professor of Labour Studies, McMaster University

Dr. M.V. Ramana, Professor and Simons Chair in Disarmament, Global and Human Security at the School of Public Policy and Global Affairs, University of British Columbia

Dawn Robichaud, lifetime member, Canadian Union of Postal Workers

Sébastien Rioux, Assistant Professor of Geography, Université de Montréal

Catriona Sandilands, Professor, Faculty of Environmental Studies, York University

Dr. Larry Savage, Professor of Labour Studies, Brock University

Yvonne Schmitz, member, Alberta Union of Public Employees

David Semaan, MA student, University of Alberta

Hamza Shaiban, President of the Yemeni Community in Canada

John Sharkey, Bain Co-Op

Dr. Tyler Shipley, Professor of Culture, Society and Commerce, Humber College

Harry Smaller, Ph.D., Associate Professor (Emeritus), York University

Adrian A. Smith, Associate Professor of Law, Osgoode Hall Law School, York University

Charles Smith, Associate Professor of Political Science, St. Thomas More College, University of Saskatchewan

Julia Smith, Postdoctoral Fellow in Sociology, University of Alberta

Murray E.G. Smith, Professor of Sociology, Brock University

Dr. Andrew Stevens, Associate Professor, University of Regina

Robert C.H. Sweeny, Honourary Research Professor MUN, Professeur associé UQAM

Dr. Christina Szurlej, Director of Atlantic Human Rights Centre and Assistant Professor of Human Rights, St. Thomas University

Darren Steinhoff, Canadian Union of Postal Workers, Columbia River Local, B.C.

Robert Storey, Professor of Labour Studies, McMaster University

Kendra Strauss, Director and Associate Professor, The Labour Studies Program, Simon Fraser University

Moe Taylor, Instructor, Department of History, University of British Columbia

David P. Thomas, Associate Professor, Department of Politics and International Relations, Mount Allison University

Mark Thomas, Associate Professor, Department of Sociology, York University

Liujia Tian, Ph.D. candidate, University of Toronto

Paula Tippett, Council of Canadians, Saint John, NB

Eric Tucker, Professor of Law, Osgoode Hall Law School, York University

Steven Tufts, Associate Professor of Geography, York University

Daniel Turp, Professor at the Faculty of Law, Université de Montréal

Robin Vose, Associate Professor of History, St. Thomas University

Srdjan Vucetic, Associate Professor of International Affairs, University of Ottawa

Dr. Rinaldo Walcott, Professor and Director of the Women and Gender Studies Institute, University of Toronto

Harsha Walia, activist and author of Undoing Border Imperialism

Dr. Christopher Webb, University of Toronto Scarborough

Mike Welfley, Treasurer, Winnipeg Labour Council

Suzanne Weiss, peace and human rights activist

Geoffrey Whitehall, Professor, Department of Politics, Acadia University

Lesley Wood, Associate Professor of Sociology, York University

Thomas Woodley, President, Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East

Bob Whitney, Professor of History, University of New Brunswick

Christopher Wilson, member, Coalition of Black Trade Unionists

Dr. W. Thom Workman, Professor of Political Science, University of New Brunswick

Art Young, solidarity activist, Toronto ON.

*Affiliations of signers are listed for identification purposes only.