Activists across Canada marked the third anniversary of the Yemen school bus massacre on Monday with protests at weapons manufacturers and government offices, calling on Canada to stop all weapons exports to Saudi Arabia. The Saudi bombing of a school bus in a crowded market in northern Yemen on August 9, 2018 killed 44 children and ten adults and wounded many more.
In Nova Scotia activists protested outside Lockheed Martin’s Dartmouth facility. The bomb used in the airstrike on the Yemeni school bus was made by weapons manufacturer Lockheed Martin. Lockheed Martin Canada is a wholly-owned subsidiary of U.S. company Lockheed Martin.
[Video from protest: Livestream, Indigenous drummer performs healing song, child has a message for Lockheed Martin]
“Three years ago today an entire school bus of children was slaughtered by a 500-pound Lockheed Martin bomb. I’m here at Lockheed Martin’s facility today with my young child, the same age as many of the kids on that bus, to hold this company accountable for the death of these 44 children and ensure they are not forgotten,” said Rachel Small of World BEYOND War.
In London, Ontario activists painted red tank tracks leading up to the home of Danny Deep, President of General Dynamics Land Systems, a London-area company manufacturing light armoured vehicles (LAVs) for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Tracks were also painted at the offices of local Liberal Members of Parliament Peter Fragiskatos (London North Centre) and Kate Young (London West). People for Peace London and Labour Against the Arms Trade have called for conversion of war industries like the GDLS facility in London to peaceful green production in order to maintain good jobs addressing human needs rather than promoting war.
Last week, it was revealed that the Canadian government had approved a new deal to sell $74 million worth of explosives to Saudi Arabia in 2020. Since the beginning of the pandemic, Canada has exported over $1.2 billion worth of arms to Saudi Arabia. In 2019, Canada exported arms valued at $2.8 billion to the Kingdom — more than 77 times the dollar value of Canadian aid to Yemen in the same year. Arms exports to Saudi Arabia now account for over 75% of Canada’s non-US military exports.
In Vancouver, members of the Yemeni community and allies rallied at Defense Minister Harjit Sajjan’s constituency office. Mobilization Against War & Occupation (MAWO), Yemeni Community Association of Canada and Fire This Time Movement for Social Justice organized a rally calling for an end to Canada’s sales of deadly weapons to the Saudi-led coalition. People passing by took notice of red tank tracks leading from the sidewalk to the door of Defence Minister Sajjan’s office, along with banners and signs demanding an end to Canada’s support of Saudi war crimes in Yemen.
“Today we remember the over 40 children and 11 adults who were killed by a Saudi airstrike on their school bus, three years ago on August 9, 2018,” said Azza Rojbi, Tunisian activist, author and executive member of Mobilization Against War & Occupation (MAWO). “We must not forget that the laser guided bomb which killed these children was made in the United States, and that weapons which continue to kill Yemeni people every day are sold by Canada and the U.S. to the Saudi-led coalition.”
In St. Catharines community members stuck cutouts of children on Member of Parliament Chris Bittle’s door to represent each of the children killed in the school bus bombing.
Now in its sixth year, the Saudi-led war on Yemen has killed almost a quarter of a million people, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. It’s also led to what the UN body has called the “world’s worst humanitarian crisis.”
“A child in Yemen will die every 75 seconds this year because of the ongoing war, according to the World Food Programme. As a parent, I can’t just stand by and allow Canada to keep profiting off of this war by selling weapons to Saudi Arabia,” said Sakura Saunders, a board member of World BEYOND War. “It’s despicable that Canada continues to fuel a war that has led to the worst humanitarian crisis on the planet and heavy civilian casualties in Yemen.”
Last fall, Canada was for the first time publicly named as one of the countries helping to fuel the war in Yemen by a panel of independent experts monitoring the conflict for the UN and investigating possible war crimes by the combatants, including Saudi Arabia.
“For Trudeau to enter into this election claiming to have run a ‘feminist foreign policy’ is patently absurd given this government’s unwavering commitment to sending billions of dollars worth of weaponry to Saudia Arabia, a country infamous for its human rights record and systematic oppression of women. The Saudi arms deal is the exact opposite of a feminist approach to foreign policy,” said Joan Smith from Nova Scotia Voice of Women for Peace.
Over 4 million people have been displaced because of the war, and 80% of the population, including 12.2 million children, are in desperate need of humanitarian assistance. This same assistance has been thwarted by the Saudi-led coalition’s land, air, and naval blockade of the country. Since 2015, this blockade has prevented food, fuel, commercial goods, and aid from entering Yemen.