Saudia suspends flights to Canada, escalating diplomatic spat

There were 327 Saudi students at Mc Gill University last year.					Marie France Coallier  Montreal Gazette

Canada tweeted that it was "gravely concerned" about a new wave of arrests of women's-rights activists in the kingdom, which angered Saudi Arabia and prompted the country to retaliate with a series of diplomatic measures aimed at signalling its strength.

Riyadh also suspended all new trade agreements with Canada, recalled its own ambassador and gave Canada 24 hours to leave the country. It could also have an impact on Canadian oil imports: Canada imports nine per cent of its crude oil from Saudi Arabia, much of which goes to the Atlantic provinces.

Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Canada's Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland hold a news conference after participating in the NATO Summit in Brussels, Belgium July 12, 2018. "We are always going to speak up for human rights; we're always going to speak up for women's rights; and that is not going to change", she told reporters in Vancouver on Monday.

Saudi Arabia has apparently threatened a 9/11-style aircraft attack on Canada in an astonishing tweet.

Saudi Arabia's move came followed a tweet Friday from Global Affairs Canada which expressed concerns about the arrests of civil and women's rights activists and asking the Saudi government to immediately release them. Saudi Arabia's media ministry said it was investigating the incident.

Saudi Arabia's national airline Saudia announced the suspension of all direct flights to and from Toronto following Canada's comments about the kingdom's treatment of human rights activists.

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Saudi's foreign ministry called the statement "a major, unacceptable affront to the kingdom's laws and judicial process".

Raif Badawi's wife has been granted asylum by Canada.

Samar was arrested along with fellow campaigner Nassima al-Sadah last week, the latest victims of what Human Rights Watch called an "unprecedented government crackdown on the women's rights movement".

The report also said all Saudi Arabian students now studying in Canada will be transferred to other countries. Officials said on state television that there are more than 12,000 Saudi students and family members in Canada, and that many will be transferred to other countries, including the United States.

Bilateral trade amounts to CAN $3-4 billion (US $2.3-3.1 billion) a year, according to Thomas Juneau, an assistant professor at the University of Ottawa.

Garry Keller, who was chief of staff to ex-Conservative Foreign Minister John Baird, said the government needed to look at how it could help businesses that might be affected.

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