Political tensions between Canada and Saudi Arabia continue to tighten today. Following the expulsion of Canada's ambassador, Dennis Horak, Saudi officials have now suspended scholarships for international students at Canadian campuses. The move affects roughly 16,000 citizens currently enrolled in Canadian colleges, who will now be placed in other countries.
The fallout comes after Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland posted a message on social media expressing concern over the jailing of human rights activists, Samar and Raif Badawi. In a tweet sent out last Thursday, Freeland said she was "very alarmed" to learn of the imprisonment and stated "Canada stands together with the Badawi family in this difficult time, and we continue to strongly call for the release of both Raif and Samar Badawi".
Freeland's message sparked outrage within the Saudi kingdom, and prompted the nation to respond with a statement of their own via its foreign ministry. "Throughout its long history", begins the post, "the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has never accepted any interference in its domestic affairs by, or orders from any country." As previously mentioned, ambassador Horak was ordered to leave Saudi Arabia overnight and was informed that all new trade and investment transactions with Canada were to be axed or put on hold.
In an interview yesterday, Freeland said that the Saudi government will not back down, meaning Canada is at an impasse right now. “We are always going to speak up for human rights", she said. "We are always going to speak up for women’s rights and that is not going to change.” Bessma Momani said, an expert on Middle East issues and professor at the University of Waterloo, told the Toronto Star that he's worried about Saudi students, but it doesn't change Canada's position. “I’m concerned about those students, but we still need to stand by our position that we support human rights in the world."