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In Solidarity: Canadian Minister Stands Firm on Human Rights Stance With Saudi Arabia


Author(s): Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Publication (Outlet/Website): Medium (Humanist Voices)

Publication Date (yyyy/mm/dd): 2018/08/06

Canada is taking a firm stance in support of the human rights dissenters internationally. In this current case, we see the firm stance of — someone who I genuinely like — Chrystia Freeland, the Foreign Affairs Minister in the Federal Liberal Government of Canada.

The Freeland stated that Canada will not be backing down from its stance for the human rights and women’s rights. Canadian values amount to internationalist values. Those ethics come from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights — arguably one of the most important human rights documents in the 20th century and into the early 21st century.

The minister emphasized that Canadian foreign policy will remain in line with the work of the international and the rigths documents signed and ratified for decades. Those documents emphasizing the importance and relevance, and need to implement, human rights and women’s rights.

Global Affairs Canada, through its Twitter account, ‘tweeted,’ “Canada is gravely concerned about additional arrests of civil society and women’s rights activists in Saudi Arabia, including Samar Badawi. We urge the Saudi authorities to immediately release them and all other peaceful human rights activists.”

The Canadian ambassador to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA), Dennis Horak, was ordered by the Saudi foreign ministry to immediately leave the country (KSA). The foreign ministry of the KSA stated that the statement by Canadian representative organization was “unfortunate, reprehensible, and unacceptable in relations between states.” (Welcome to the International Relations by Tweet Era.)

The Saudi government was in disagreement over the statement by the Canadian government because of what the KSA perceives as an attempt by a foreign UN Member State to influence its owwn internal politics.

From their government’s point of view, it would be as if the KSA began to comment on the human rights situation within Canadian society, e.g. the treatment over the long-term into the present of the Indigenous peoples.

There are now sanctions in place, where this will cost about $15-billion in arms deals. Those costs come from armored vehicles sent to the KSA. The outcome on this arms dealings situation is unknown at the present.

The Canadian ambassador only had 24 hours to leave Riyadh. The embassy of Canada in the KSA remains open and available for business. There is now fervent work, even zealous if you will pardon the phrase, to have thousands of Saudi scholarship students leave Canadian schools in order to take their classes in other countries.

There are about 16,000 students from Saudi Arabia in Canadian schools at the moment. However, Freeland retorted with the statement that the students are still permitted to be here

Now, the airline Saudia suspended flights to and from the city of Toronto. This is viewed favorably by people in the KSA, according to Middle East Affairs Analyst Bessma Momani. These efforts of sanctions and so on could be seen as positive backlash against Canada for raising human rights concerns. Any raising of human rights concerns in the Middle East is a concern to the countries’ leaders in the region.

KSA has been becoming aggressive in the MENA region in general, trying to assert itself over the last few years. However, the posturing against Canada may remain something of note because it is easier to do this against a nation not in the region, so not as important to the Islamic theocratic regime.

The human rights organization Amnesty International stated that Samar Badawi, or the sister of the blogger Raif Badawi, has been detained. Also, a prominent female human rights activist, Nassima al-Sada has been taken in as well. There is an aggressive stance towards human rights activists and campaigners. They will detained. They will be arrest and kept indefinitely.

It is because the regime does not want to have to deal with its own human rights violations, probably, in part, to do with the fact that in a theocratic state the transcendent moral ethic trumps any secular universalist ethic from the international community.

Freeland stated, “Ensaf is a Canadian citizen, she and her family, therefore merit special attention from the government of Canada and a lot of Canadian civil society has been speaking up for her.”

The wife of Raif Badawi, Ensaf Haidar, lives in Sherbrooke, Quebec. She has been calling for the release of her husband for a long time, and now this extends to her sister as well.

This over time may have created the tension and, thus, the eventual international relations disagreement or “dispute” between Canada and the KSA.


In-Sight Publishing by Scott Douglas Jacobsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. Based on a work at


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