The federal government has asked the RCMP to investigate a Montreal-based lobbyist to see if it violated Canadian sanctions by signing a US$6-million contract to seek funding and equipment for Sudan’s new military regime.
The Globe and Mail revealed last week that the lobbyist, Dickens & Madson (Canada) Inc., has promised to burnish the image of the regime that seized power in a coup in April. The regime’s security forces later massacred more than 100 pro-democracy protesters in Khartoum in a bid to crush a protest camp near the military headquarters.
“RCMP is responsible for investigating sanctions violations,” said Adam Austen, press secretary for Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland, in a tweet on Wednesday.
“We have referred the matter to them,” Mr. Austen added in the tweet, replying to questions from an aid worker who has worked with Sudanese refugees in the past.
The Global Affairs department confirmed that it has formally referred the lobbying contract to the RCMP for investigation.
“Canada has fully prohibited the provision of arms or related technical assistance to Sudan,” department spokesperson Amy Mills told The Globe in a statement.
“All persons in Canada and Canadians abroad must comply with Canada’s strict sanctions measures. This includes individuals and entities. Contravening Canadian sanctions is a criminal offence.”
Under the terms of the contract, signed on May 7, the Montreal-based company says it will obtain favourable media coverage of Sudan’s military regime, seek funds and equipment for its armed forces and security agencies, search for possible oil investors and seek a meeting with U.S. President Donald Trump.
The contract was signed by Ari Ben-Menashe, a former Israeli intelligence officer who heads the lobbying company, and General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, deputy leader of the Transitional Military Council (TMC) that seized power in a coup after ousting former president Omar al-Bashir.
The contract has stirred outrage in Sudan, especially at a time when Sudan’s people are suffering from a protracted economic crisis and increasing poverty. “The TMC would have more popularity if it spent that $6-million on health or education,” said Amjad Farid, spokesperson for the Sudanese Professionals Association, one of the key organizers of the pro-democracy protest movement, in an interview with The Globe on Wednesday.
Amnesty International, in a letter to federal cabinet ministers this week, said the lobbying contract was “deeply disturbing” and needs to be closely investigated.
In addition to its possible violation of Canadian sanctions on Sudan, the lobbying company could also violate Canada’s new regulations on arms brokering, which take effect in September. Those regulations “ensure that no Canadian can send weapons to areas of conflict, like Sudan,” the Global Affairs department said on Wednesday.
Despite the massacre of protesters on June 3, huge crowds of demonstrators returned to the streets of Sudan’s cities last Sunday to resume their demand for a civilian government. At least 10 civilians were reportedly shot dead by security forces during those rallies.
The protest movement began in response to Sudan’s economic crisis last December, but has expanded to seek a wide range of reforms in a country that has been ruled by authoritarian regimes for the past three decades.
In a statement this week, the Canadian government said it stands with the people of Sudan and their “just demands” for democracy and human rights.
“Canada commends the courage of the Sudanese people, who continue to exercise their fundamental right to freedom of expression and assembly,” the statement said.
“The violent response by the TMC to peaceful demonstrators is unacceptable, and we condemn the killing and wounding of unarmed, peaceful protesters.”
The Globe has tried to reach Mr. Ben-Menashe for comment on the lobbying contract, but was told that he was travelling and could not be reached. In an interview with the BBC, however, he confirmed the main details of the lobbying contract. He said his company will seek to remove the international sanctions on Sudan and will then try to obtain military supplies for a future civilian government.
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