Saudi airline stops flights to Canada amid escalating diplomatic row

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Earlier this week, Riyadh froze all trade and education ties with Canada and expelled the country's ambassador to Saudi Arabia.

Analysts say the dispute between Riyadh and Ottawa shows Saudi Arabia won't accept any outside criticism and will continue flexing its muscles overseas, especially as the kingdom enjoys a closer relationship with President Donald Trump.

Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland stood by Canada's position on Monday, saying Canadians expect their government's foreign policy to be guided by their values.

Media captionSaudi Arabia's permanent representative to the United Nations confirmed the change in policy What has the relationship between Saudi Arabia and Canada been like in the past?

Canada on Monday refused to back down in its defense of human rights after Saudi Arabia froze new trade and investment and expelled the Canadian ambassador in retaliation for Ottawa's call to free arrested Saudi civil society activists.

Samar's brother, blogger Raif Badawi, was arrested in 2012 and sentenced to 1,000 lashes and 10 years in jail for "insulting Islam" in a case that sparked an worldwide outcry.

He said that the authorities in Saudi Arabia made it clear that those arrested committed legal violations that necessitated law enforcement.

Tension began to build on Thursday after Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland tweeted she was alarmed to learn that Samar Badawi, Raif Badawi's sister, has been imprisoned in Saudi Arabia.

Raif Badawi's wife has been granted asylum by Canada.

But Riyadh's singling out of Canada is aimed at strongly discouraging other critical Western governments from speaking out, observers say.

Canada's economic relationship with Saudi Arabia is not particularly significant to Riyadh, unlike the U.S. or other Western partner governments, which experts say makes Ottawa an easier target.

According to The Globe and Mail, citing a Saudi government source, more than 15,000 Saudis are studying in Canada on government-funded courses or grants at universities, colleges, or other institutions.

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.

But the damage could be more significant if a $15 billion deal agreed in 2014 for Canada to sell Riyadh light armoured vehicles is scrapped, as thousands of jobs in Canada could be lost, Juneau said.

"We are waiting to hear from Saudi Arabia details of its response and we look forward to hearing those details".

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