Saudi-Canada row: What the sanctions are really about

Saudi Arabia is hitting back at Canada after Canadian diplomats called on the kingdom to release recently detained women's rights activists.

Saudi Arabia has ordered roughly 15,000 Saudis studying in Canada to leave.

"Any other attempt to interfere with our internal affairs from Canada, means that we are allowed to interfere in Canada's internal affairs", the Saudi ministry's said.

On Monday, the Saudi foreign ministry tweeted: 'The kingdom announces that it is recalling its ambassador to Canada for consultation.

Pain at the gas pumps will not be an issue if escalating tensions between Ottawa and Saudi Arabia result in the oil-rich Gulf state halting Canada-bound shipments of its most famous export, according to a leading petroleum industry expert. The infographic also accuses Canada of "sticking one's nose where it doesn't belong".

Badawi's wife Ensaf Haidar has been granted asylum by Canada, where she is raising their three children. In 2014, the Canadian unit of USA weapons maker General Dynamics Corp (GD.N) won a contract worth up to $13 billion to build light-armored vehicles for Saudi Arabia, in what Ottawa said was the largest advanced manufacturing export win in Canadian history. Media reports also suggest Saudi Arabia may cancel thousands of scholarships for students attending school in Canada.

Ottawa did not give any ground over the shock expulsion of the envoy, Dennis Horak, with Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland saying Canada would continue to defend human rights around the world. Saudi Arabia long has been sensitive to worldwide pressure over the Raif Badawi sentence.

Samar badawi
Saudi Arabia is pulling thousands of students from Canada in an escalating human rights feud

University Canada is working with Ottawa to do a deeper analysis on the statement from the Saudi Arabia government, and the provincial Department of Labour and Advanced Education is also looking into the matter.

The accounts, which are followed by a number of Saudi diplomatic figures, are verified and largely share government announcements and pro-Riyadh messages.

Momani called it, "getting tough on Canada", which she said other countries in the region might welcome if they view Canadian foreign policy to be led by human rights concerns.

"Instead of pursuing human rights reform, the government of Saudi Arabia has chosen to lash out with punitive measures in the face of criticism", said Samah Hadid, Amnesty International's Middle East Director of Campaigns.

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

"For Saudi Arabia to punish Canada, it's fairly easy because we're not an important country for them, either are they for us", he said.

"I don't think it will worsen the situation because very often when we make evident unjust imprisonments, like the case of Samar Badawi, that increases their protection and increases pressure on the government", she said in an interview Monday.

  • Rogelio Becker