Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland stands by Canadian foreign ministry comments condemning the arrests of civil society and women’s activists in Saudi Arabia by the Canadian foreign ministry sparked off a diplomatic dispute that has seen the kingdom freeze all new trade with Canada and cut off its wheat purchases.  CP photo by Justin Tang.

Saudi Arabia moves to halt wheat and barley purchases

On Monday, Canada’s Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland said Canada won’t back down from its position that led to an escalating diplomatic dispute with Saudi Arabia.

“I will say Canada is very comfortable with our position. 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,” Freeland told a news conference in Vancouver Monday.

Freeland’s comments came a day after Saudi Arabia announced it will stop all new trade and investment deals with Canada and ordered Denis Horak, the Canadian ambassador in Riyadh 24 hours to leave the country.

“Canadians expect our foreign policy to be driven by and to embody Canadian values, and that is how we intend to continue our foreign policy,” she added.

On Friday, the Canadian foreign ministry 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.”

Firing back, Saudi Arabia’s foreign ministry accused Canada of “overt and blatant interference” in the kingdom’s internal affairs.

“The Canadian position is a grave and unacceptable violation of the Kingdom’s laws and procedures. In addition to violate the Kingdom’s judiciary and a breach of the principle of sovereignty,” the Saudi ministry tweeted.

As part of the dispute, the Saudis are freezing all new trade and investments between the two countries.  Saudi Arabia has also recalled its ambassador to Canada.

Saudi Arabia is also planning to withdraw all Saudi students studying at Canadian post-secondary schools and will transfer them to educational institutions in Britain and the US.

There are currently 15,000 Saudi students in Canada on government-funded scholarships, grants and in trainee programs.

Airline Saudi said it will suspend flights to and from Toronto as of Aug. 13.

On Tuesday, Saudi Arabia announced it will no longer buy Canadian wheat and barley in its international tenders.