Published: Tue, August 07, 2018
Worldwide | By Stella Potter

Saudi Arabia's diplomatic dispute with Canada: An explainer

Saudi Arabia's diplomatic dispute with Canada: An explainer

The moves came after Canada on Friday expressed concern over the arrests of activists in Saudi Arabia, including prominent women's rights campaigner Samar Badawi, and called for their release. On Monday, Freeland doubled down on the position by saying Canadians expect their government's foreign policy to be guided by their values.

The official Twitter account of Global Affairs Canada also sent out a tweet, on Friday, Aug. 3: "Canada is gravely concerned about additional arrests of civil society and women's rights activists in #SaudiArabia, including Samar Badawi".

'Canada will always stand up for human rights, in Canada and around the world, and women's rights are human rights, ' Freeland told an audience in Vancouver.

An energy economist says Canada can easily replace the oil it imports from Saudi Arabia should relations with the Middle Eastern kingdom deteriorate to the point that trade in crude is halted.

The ministry also announced "the freezing of all new trade and investment transactions with Canada while retaining its right to take further action".

Both the Saudi and Canadian ambassadors were away on leave when it was made.


Thomas Juneau, an assistant professor at the University of Ottawa, said it is hard to determine what the economic impact on Canada would be without specifics on which trade deals will be affected.

According to Thompson Rivers University figures, there are 2,839 worldwide students enrolled, nine per cent of which - 256 - are from Saudi Arabia, which makes up the third-most contingent of students at TRU, behind India (22 per cent; 625 students) and China (30 per cent; 852 students).

On one hand, it would be a bad scenario to cancel the arms deals, but on the other, many human rights groups have criticized Canada's decision to sell armoured vehicles to a regime with a "horrible human rights record", Juneau said.

'There isn't a strong bilateral trade relationship and poking the Trudeau government likely resonates with Saudi's hawkish regional allies.

Mr Al Yami said Saudi Arabia conducted all the necessary legal procedures as dictated by its own law.

"Canada does not understand its place and it tried to impose itself on the Kingdom's policies in its ministry of foreign affairs statement as if to place itself above other countries in the world", he said.

Like this: