Saudi Arabian students studying in Victoria could be heading home early because of their country’s strange overreaction to a Canadian government tweet.
Although Canada might feel some pain from the dispute, it should stick by its principles.
Global Affairs Canada sent out a tweet criticizing the Middle Eastern nation for arresting and detaining two female bloggers and activists. It urged Saudi officials to release the women and “all peaceful human rights activists.”
Canada doesn’t usually pick fights with other countries, but Saudi Arabia immediately took offence to what it saw as interference in its internal affairs. It promised to freeze new trade agreements, cut service to Canada on Saudia Airlines and kicked out Canada’s ambassador. It also plans to cancel scholarships for thousands of young people studying abroad, including in B.C.
That seems like overkill, especially from a country whose new leader, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, is pushing reforms and painting his nation as “the next Europe.” However, despite allowing women to drive, the kingdom has a poor record on human rights.
The Canadian tweet put the Saudis on notice that it will not forget those who are imprisoned for exercising rights that all Canadians take for granted.
Canada was right to call out the Saudis, in keeping with our values. It should not back down.