Freeland waiting on Saudi

Samar Badawi

Samar Badawi

Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland said this afternoon that Canada would stand firm. Freeland said Canadians "expect" its foreign policy to be driven by Canadian values.

Saudi Arabia froze new trade and investment with Canada after Ottawa urged Riyadh to free arrested civil society activists.

The Saudi government is cancelling its funded scholarships for nearly 12000 students in Canada, local media reported on Monday.

Saudi state airline Saudia said it was suspending flights to and from Toronto, Canada's largest city.

A spokesman for the Human Rights Council in Saudi Arabia said the kingdom was among only 36 out of 197 countries that had submitted their annual human-rights report to the UN.

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.

Saudi Foreign Minister, Adel Al Jubeir issued a short statement through a number of tweets, stating "the Kingdom does not interfere in the affairs of other countries and will not accept any attempts to interfere in its internal affairs and we will deal (with interference) with strong resolve".

The Saudi arrests come weeks after more than a dozen women's-rights campaigners were detained and accused of undermining national security and collaborating with enemies of the state.

Tensions between Saudi Arabia and Canada are soaring since a Friday statement in which Canada expressed "serious concerns" about the Saudi Arabia arresting human rights activists.

"It is very unfortunate that the words "immediate release" appeared in the Canadian is unacceptable in relations between countries", the ministry said.

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Riyadh said that amounted to "a blatant interference in the Kingdom's domestic affairs, against basic global norms and all worldwide protocols".

Amnesty International has said Badawi, the sister of jailed blogger Raif Badawi, was recently detained along with Nassima al-Sada, another prominent female activist.

"It would be a shame for those students if they are deprived of the opportunity to study here", Freeland told reporters.

#Statement | We consider the Canadian ambassador to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia persona non grata and order him to leave within the next 24 hours.

Freeland says it's "premature" to comment on the status of Canada's arms deal with Saudi Arabia or the economic consequences of the move, adding that she's waiting for more specifics from the country.

Bessma Momani, an analyst on Middle East affairs and professor at the University of Waterloo, said the move will resonate domestically.

The Saudi Education Ministry was also reportedly coming up with an "urgent plan" to move thousands of Saudi students now taking classes in Canada; Freeland said "it would be a shame for those students if they were deprived of the opportunity to study here".

There could be a sentiment among allies that, "Finally the Trudeau government is getting poked back in the eye by the Saudis".

Samar Badawi is the first Saudi woman to have sued her father to override his objection to her choice of husband.

Exports from Quebec to Saudi Arabia accounted for just over 0.16 per cent of the $85 billion-worth of merchandise Quebec exported worldwide during the 12-month period that ended on June 30, 2018, according to data from Statistics Canada.

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