It has been one week since the Canadian foreign ministry condemned Saudi Arabia’s arrest of two prominent human rights activists, Samar Badawi and Nassima al-Sadah. Riyadh has reacted angrily to what it calls “interference in its internal affairs”— on August 5 the Saudi government expelled the Canadian ambassador and later the Kingdom announced it was halting new trade and investment with Canada.
As of 2016, Saudi Arabia was the destination for only 2.2% of Canadian exports and accounted for even less if its imports. The economic aspect of the Saudi-Canadian relationship will thus not be the most impacted by this spat. Where the Saudis in Canada are feeling the immediate effects of the diplomatic standoff is in academia, as thousands of students have been forced to leave their institutions.
Saudi Arabia is putting forth a strong gesture of intolerance for Western criticism of the Kingdom’s internal affairs. The controversial crown prince Mohammed bin Salman has begun ushering in a modernised Saudi Arabia through social reform, such as lifting the driving ban, but is sending a message to the international community to be cautious of how it interacts with the pace of these changes.
Bibi contributes to our analysis of European affairs for The Daily Brief. She also serves as a copy editor for the publication.