Canada's NDP


June 1st, 2022

Letter to Minister Joly

Regarding the Crisis in Yemen and Canadian weapons sales to Saudi Arabia

The Honourable Mélanie Joly
Minister of Foreign Affairs
Global Affairs Canada
125 Sussex Drive
Ottawa ON K1A 0G2

Sent by email:

June 1, 2022

Dear Minister Joly,

I write to you today regarding Canada’s ongoing complicity in the seven-year war in Yemen and Canadian arms sales to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

On May 6th, 2022, I had the pleasure of meeting with representatives from Canadian Students for Peace in Yemen (CSPY), who spoke about the tragic war and humanitarian crisis in Yemen. They clearly expressed their desire for Canada to cancel all active and pending arms deals with Saudi Arabia. I urge you to give due consideration to their request, which I fully support.

As you know, Saudi Arabia is one of the primary perpetrators of suffering in Yemen, alongside the United Arab Emirates and other countries participating in the Saudi-led coalition. This coalition continues to operate with political and military support of states including the United States, the United Kingdom, and Canada.

The Saudi-led coalition has been responsible for the deaths of thousands of civilians, including children, and has engaged in indiscriminate and illegal attacks on schools and hospitals. Yemen is facing one of the worst humanitarian crises in the world, with more than 17 million Yemenis facing a severe hunger crisis.

The United Nations Group of Eminent International and Regional Experts on Yemen has twice urged Canada to stop selling arms to Saudi Arabia. I raised this issue with you in Parliament twice in March of this year. You said that Canada supports a political solution as the only way to end the conflict and humanitarian crisis. Minister, ending arms sales is a crucial part of this political solution.

You have also said that you “will deny any permit application where there is a substantial risk of human rights violations.” But as Canada’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, you also have the responsibility to cancel existing permits where there is risk of human rights violations. Saudi Arabia’s record of human rights violations – both against its own citizens and against civilians in Yemen - is extensive, and certainly justifies the cancellation of all existing permits.

The NDP has been advocating for this policy change for more than seven years. We have repeatedly asked your government to develop a just transition plan, in conjunction with labour, to secure the livelihoods of those who would be impacted by the cessation of arms exports to Saudi Arabia. Canadian workers shouldn’t be put in this position in the first place: Canada should work with trade unions representing workers in the arms industry to develop a plan that secures their livelihoods without relying on arms sales to Saudi Arabia. It's time for Canada to develop a robust, thoughtful economic conversion strategy that will decrease our reliance on arms exports and build a manufacturing sector that benefits Canadians - and doesn't contribute to violations of human rights abroad. I ask you to respond to the request of over 50 Canadian civil society organizations urging your government to develop this economic conversion strategy and end these exports.

Minister, I find it impossible to reconcile your government’s claims regarding feminist foreign policy with its ongoing arms exports to Saudi Arabia. As the war in Yemen continues past its seventh year with no peace in sight, I urge you once again to immediately end Canada’s complicity in this horrendous and unnecessary conflict.

Heather McPherson, MP for Edmonton Strathcona
NDP Critic for Foreign Affairs and International Development

Read Minister Joly's Response