Canada has refused to back down from its human rights stance despite Saudi Arabia’s expulsion of its ambassador.
“Let me be very clear … Canada will always stand up for human rights in Canada and around the world, and women’s rights are human rights,” said Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland on Monday.
Freeland’s spokeswoman said that the minister is “seriously concerned” over Saudi Arabia’s actions.
“Canada will always stand up for the protection of human rights, very much including women’s rights, and freedom of expression around the world,” she said.
“Our government will never hesitate to promote these values and believes that this dialogue is critical to international diplomacy,” she added.
Saudis halt flights to and from Toronto
On Monday, Saudi state airline Saudia announced that it will start to suspended flights to and from Toronto as part of its freeze of ties with Canada.
On Sunday, Saudi Arabia has expelled the Canadian ambassador and recalled its envoy after severing business ties with Ottawa over claims of interference in its internal affairs.
The announcement was made after, the Canadian Embassy in Riyadh said it was “gravely concerned” over a spike of arrests of human rights campaigners in the Saudi kingdom including gender rights activist Samar Badawi.
Saudi authorities arrested award-winning gender rights activist Samar Badawi and Nassima al-Sadah last week.
They are “the latest victims of an unprecedented government crackdown on the women’s rights movement that began on May 15, 2018 and has resulted in the arrest of more than a dozen activists,” the US-based rights group said.
Amnesty calls for united front against Riyadh
Meanwhile, Amnesty International has called on the global community to join with Canada and call for the release of the female activists.
“The international community must push Saudi Arabian authorities to end this draconian crackdown and targeted repression of human rights defenders in the country”, Amnesty International’s Middle East Director of Campaigns Samah Hadid said.
“Instead of pursuing human rights reform, the government of Saudi Arabia has chosen to lash out with punitive measures in the face of criticism. States with significant influence in Saudi Arabia – such as the USA, UK and France – have now remained silent for far too long.
“The world cannot continue to look the other way as this relentless persecution of human rights defenders in Saudi Arabia continues. It is now time for other governments to join Canada in increasing the pressure on Saudi Arabia to release all prisoners of conscience immediately and unconditionally, and end the crackdown on freedom of expression in the country.”
Genevieve Paul, the director of Amnesty’s francophone branch also noted that the Saudi government is put under pressure when news of detentions becomes public.
“I don’t think it will worsen the situation because very often when we make evident unjust imprisonments, like the case of Samar Badawi, that increases their protection and increases pressure on the government,” she said.