Canada defiant after Saudi Arabia freezes new trade over human rights call

Canada defiant after Saudi Arabia freezes new trade over human rights call

Kerry Wise
August 8, 2018

Saudia said it would be temporarily stopping inbound and outbound flights to Toronto Pearson International Airport - the only Canadian destination it serves - from August 13.

Saudi Arabia's main state wheat buying agency has told grains exporters it will no longer buy Canadian wheat and barley in its global tenders, European traders said on Tuesday, as a diplomatic dispute between the two countries escalates.

The decision to freeze new trade agreements could threaten Canada's $15-billion arms deal that includes providing armoured vehicles to the kingdom, but Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland said it was "premature" to comment on its status.

The kingdom will also suspend educational exchange programs with Canada and move Saudi scholarship recipients to other countries, Saudi-owned Al Arabiya reported Monday.

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

The government also froze all new trade with Canada, and ordered approximately 16,000 Saudi students studying overseas in Canada to return home or complete their study in other countries.

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

Sony Unveils World's First 48MP Smartphone Camera Sensor
Better dynamic range means that pictures with both bright and darker areas should have more detailed highlights and shadows. The Japanese company has taken the wraps off its new image sensor for smartphones which packs some impressive numbers.

"The Kingdom views the Canadian position as an affront to the Kingdom that requires a sharp response to prevent any party from attempting to meddle with Saudi sovereignty", according to a statement by the Saudi foreign ministry.

Canada said it was "seriously concerned" by the escalation but vowed to continue to "stand up for human rights in Canada and around the world".

Raif Badawi was arrested in 2012 for running a blog that promoted free speech and women's rights in Saudi Arabia.

Crown Prince Mohammed, as heir to the throne, is in line to become the first Saudi king from a new generation after a succession of six brothers dating to 1953. "Canada stands together with the Badawi family in this hard time, and we continue to strongly call for the release of both Raif and Samar Badawi".

"So neither Saudi nor Canada are going to be affected much by stopping the wheat and barley trade".

"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.