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Canada’s escalating diplomatic spat with Saudi Arabia

The dispute between Canada and Saudi Arabia arose due to a tweet issued by Canada’s Global Affairs Ministry criticizing the arrest and detention of two female bloggers, including Samar Badawi, sister of jailed blogger Raif Badawi, and urging Saudi authorities to immediately release the two women as well as all peaceful human right activists. The post was later retweeted in Arabic by the Canadian Embassy in Riyadh. Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Chrystia Freeland, also weighed in on the matter, saying she was “very alarmed” by their detention in a post on Twitter.

The Saudi Foreign Ministry took exception to the wording of the tweet, calling it an attempt by Canada to interfere with the country’s internal affairs. In retaliation, Saudi Arabia has declared the Canadian ambassador Dennis Horak “persona non grata” and has given him 24 hours to leave the country. The Saudis have also called their ambassador back from Canada, suspended all new businesses transactions and investments linked with Canada, and canceled direct flights to Toronto by Saudi’s state airline.

More recently, Saudi Arabia ordered 16 000 students in Canada to either return home or complete their studies in a different country. Many of the students attending Canadian colleges and universities are here through the King Abdullah scholarship program, which covers their tuition, flights, accommodations, and living expenses. According to Bessma Momani, an expert on Middle East issues and a political science professor at the University of Waterloo, Saudi students are now “scrambling with what to do with their lives […]” Saudi Arabia has also stopped all medical treatment programs in Canada and is coordinating for the transfer of all Saudi patients currently receiving care in Canadian hospitals to be moved outside of the country. Today, the Saudi central bank and state pension funds ordered overseas asset managers to offload their Canadian equities, bonds, and cash holding at any cost.

This developing situation could affect many Saudi foreign nationals in Canada, including students, workers, and visitors. If you are affected by this situation, call our office today to schedule a consultation at 613-220-6448, or visit our website.


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