Students Scramble For Info After Saudi Arabia Pulls Canadian Scholarships

Lloyd Doyle
August 9, 2018

Canada's arms trade to Saudi Arabia, which is led by what is widely viewed as a deeply repressive regime, has raised numerous complaints from human rights and arms-control groups.

While both countries are friends of the US, "both sides need to diplomatically resolve this together", State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert told a media briefing later Tuesday.

Riyadh has also stopped all medical treatment programmes in Canada and is co-ordinating for the transfer of all Saudi patients from Canadian hospitals to other hospitals outside Canada, the Saudi press agency reported early on Wednesday.

"Should we have to replace them, it would be like if 86 people suddenly called in sick", Dr. Hodges said.

The Saudi government on Sunday recalled its ambassador to Ottawa, barred Canada's ambassador to Riyadh and placed a ban on new trade, denouncing Canada for urging the release of rights activists. But last fall, he said, the university had 49 undergraduate and 21 graduate students registered from Saudi Arabia.

College of New Caledonia information officer Dustin Ruth said CNC now does not have any students from Saudi Arabia and was not expecting any from the country for the upcoming semester.

Saudi Arabia's diplomatic rupture with Canada underscores the kingdom's newly combative foreign policy to tame global criticism after a crackdown on domestic critics, as it struggles to implement risky reforms, analysts say.

Saudi Arabia also called backed its ambassador from Ottawa and ordered Canada's chief envoy out of the country.

The Saudis have also threatened to exclude Canadian companies from participation in the lucrative Vision 2030 programme, where the kingdom is spending hundreds of billions of dollars to modernise its economy.

Was it to influence the broader direction of Saudi Arabia?

Saudi Aramco, the kingdom's state-owned oil company and the world's largest crude producer, shipped 136,321 barrels of oil per day to Canada in June, the last month for which Statistics Canada oil import data is available.

According to the Association of Faculties of Medicine of Canada, which represents the country's 17 medical schools, there were 799 graduates of Saudi medical schools training in Canada as of November 1, 2016, or almost 18 per cent of all the foreign medical graduates training here.

"Thousands of students (being withdrawn), that's a strong signal", said Roland Paris, a professor of International Affairs at the University of Ottawa and a former adviser to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

The city's General Dynamics Land Systems plant has been supplying light armoured vehicles to Saudi security forces, thanks to a huge, $15-billion contract signed by the federal government in 2014.

Another source said Canada will be turning to its old ally the United Kingdom for help, which has appealed for calm. The US and the British government on Tuesday urged the two nations to show restraint.

Transport Canada did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the development.

"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 government said.

We could fire our foreign minister and say, 'You're right, we shouldn't be interfering.' Or we can take a more principled stand that human rights are universal rights.

Describing both countries as "close partners" of the US, the US State Department on Tuesday referred inquiries about the spat to the Saudi and Canadian foreign ministries.

Among the arrested activists is Samar Badawi, whose writer brother Raif Badawi was arrested in Saudi Arabia in 2012 and later sentenced to 1,000 lashes and 10 years in prison for insulting Islam while blogging. He won Europe's top human rights prize in 2015.

Albertans comprise a large portion of the estimated 8,000 Canadians working in Saudi Arabia, particularly in the health, education, and oil and gas sectors, according to Alberta government figures. His wife, Ensaf Haidar, lives in Canada and received Canadian citizenship in July.

It's not the first time Saudi Arabia has lashed out diplomatically over the Badawi case.

The United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Palestinian Authority have all come out in support of Saudi Arabia, as did Comoros, Djibouti and Mauritania.

Other reports by Iphone Fresh

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