Saudi suspends flights to Canada ahead of Hajj

08 August, 2018, 00:36 | Author: Kim Reid
  • Saudi Arabia Expels Canadian Ambassador, To Withdraw Students From Canada Over Women's Rights Criticism

The move, which underscores a newly aggressive foreign policy led by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, came after Canada demanded the immediate release of human rights campaigners swept up in a new crackdown. Canadian exports to Saudi Arabia totaled about $1.12 billion in 2017, or 0.2 percent of the total value of Canadian exports.

Among the arrested is Samar Badawi, an award-winning women's-rights activist who sought to abolish the country's male-guardianship laws.

Raif Badawi's wife has been granted asylum by Canada. It also suspended new trade dealings with Canada.

Spokeswoman Marie-Pier Baril reiterated her country's position "for the protection of human rights, very much including women's rights, and freedom of expression around the world".

The move followed the Kingdom's announcement yesterday that it was expelling the Canadian ambassador and had recalled its envoy while freezing all new trade, in protest at Ottawa's vigorous calls for the release of jailed activists.

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According to a report from Saudi-owned media outlet, Al Arabiya, the country announced the "suspension of training, scholarships and fellowships to Canada and the transfer [of] all its students in that state to other countries".

Canada's largest refinery in Saint John, N.B., owned by Irving Oil, relies on Saudi Arabia for almost 40 per cent of its crude supply, according 2018 statistics from the National Energy Board.

"And by hitting Canada - which is big enough to matter but small enough not to be a risk to Saudi - he sends a message elsewhere", Kliment said.

Among those reportedly still being held, in addition to Badawai, are Hatoon al-Fassi, a leading voice for women's participation in civil life; human rights defender Khaled al-Omair; women's rights activists Loujain al-Hathloul, Eman al-Nafjan, Aziza al-Yousef, Nouf Abdulaziz and Mayaa al-Zahrani; Ms Hathloul's 80-year-old lawyer, Ibrahim al-Modaimeegh; and the activist Abdulaziz Meshaal.

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The Shura Council in Bahrain, the kingdom's highest legislative body, also issued a statement condemning Canada's interference in Saudi's affairs.

In 2014, the Conservative government approved a C$15b arms deal that would allow a Canadian company to sell military vehicles to the Saudi government.

That caused significant backlash by those concerned about Saudi Arabia's human rights record.

Saudi Arabia's trade freeze now throws that deal into doubt.

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