Manama: Saudi Arabia said it was freezing all new trade and investment relations with Canada and declared the Canadian ambassador to Riyadh as persona non grata, giving him 24 hours to leave the kingdom, in response to Canada’s call for the release of anti-government activist Samar Badawi.
Riyadh also recalled its ambassador to Canada for consultations and stressed it retained its right to take further action, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement on Monday morning.
Canada is gravely concerned about additional arrests of civil society and women’s rights activists in #SaudiArabia, including Samar Badawi. We urge the Saudi authorities to immediately release them and all other peaceful #humanrights activists.
The Saudi decisions were in reaction to Canada’s “blatant and unacceptable interference” in the domestic affairs of the kingdom, the ministry explained.
Many Canadians will wonder what the death of King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia means for them. They may be surprised to learn about the significant ways that Canada and the Saudi kingdom are connected.
Saudi Arabia buys our armoured vehicles
A London, Ont., company called General Dynamics Land Systems inked a $15-billion deal last year to sell armoured vehicles to Saudi Arabia. Susan Truppe, a local Conservative MP, called the deal the “largest advanced manufacturing export win in Canada’s history.” She said it would create 3,000 jobs in Canada over 14 years.
But many have questioned the sale. “That’s a lot of weaponry to a country that has a very notorious human rights record,” says Alex Neve of Amnesty International Canada.
Women are still not allowed to drive. There are no political parties. Recently, a blogger named Raif Badawi was sentenced to 10 years in prison, 1,000 lashes and a fine of about $266,000 for criticizing Saudi clerics. His wife and family live in Canada.
Saudi doctors train in Canada
Canada has trained more than 4,000 Saudi physiciansover the past three decades, including at least one Saudi Minister of Health. In 2010, there were 900 Saudi doctors training in Canada – more than in any other country in the world, according to the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade.
It’s not just doctors. There are more than 15,000 Saudi students in Canada and Saudi Arabia is the fourth biggest source country for international students in Canada.
Both countries are oil heavyweights
Saudi Arabia has more proven oil reserves than any other country in the world, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. Its reserves are so big that analysts believe it can affect the global price of oil by changing how much it produces.
The price of oil matters greatly to Canada, which has the third-largest reserves. In fact, the Bank of Canada revised its outlook for the Canadian economy this week because of dropping oil prices.
Both countries are allied against Iran
“The Saudi government plays an important role in promoting regional peace and stability,” according to the Government of Canada. Canada sees Saudi Arabia as a counterbalance in the Middle East against Iran, which both view as a threat.
John Baird, Canada’s foreign minister, fears that Iran is making a nuclear weapon and has called out the country for its support of Hezbollah, which Canada considers a terrorist organization.