Saudi Arabia's standoff with Canada will affect dozens of UVic students

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The Islamic Kingdom made the decision in retaliation to a Global Affairs Canada's tweet that expressed concerns about the arrests of civil society and women's rights activists in the country, such as Samar Badawi.

The Saudi government on Sunday recalled its ambassador to Ottawa, barred Canada's envoy from returning and placed a ban on new trade, after Canada urged it to release jailed rights activists. Samar's brother, Raif Badawi, is a blogger who was arrested in 2012 and sentenced to 10 years in prison and 1,000 lashes for criticizing the Saudi clerics, for which he was convicted of "insulting Islam".

The Kingdom of Bahrain posted a statement on its website affirming its "full solidarity" with Saudi Arabia against "any external interference in its internal affairs or any side's attempt to undermine the Saudi sovereignty". In little more than a year, the kingdom has led a four-country coalition that severed ties with neighbouring Qatar, recalled its ambassador to Germany and cut back its trade dealings with some German companies amid a diplomatic row.

Saudi state media initially claimed the plane tweet was a tribute to the departing ambassador sent by a low level staffer (the Saudi equivalent of the "social media intern" defense).

The dispute with Canada has shed light on scores of political and rights activists arrested in Saudi Arabia over the last two years.

Media captionSaudi Arabia's permanent representative to the United Nations confirmed the change in policy What has the relationship between Saudi Arabia and Canada been like in the past? Niagara actually has campuses in Saudi Arabia, but says it's unaware of any impact on those operations.

Many students pay tens of thousands of dollars in tuition fees alone, while also paying huge sums on accommodation and living expenses. "Canada stands together with the Badawi family in this hard time, and we continue to strongly call for the release of both Raif and Samar Badawi".

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Badawi's wife and children now live in Canada.

Within a day, Saudi Arabia expelled the Canadian ambassador, froze all new investment, and canceled all flights to Toronto. Now, Saudi Arabia's state airline has announced the suspension of its direct flights to Canada, starting August 13.

Saudi students studying in Canada now have the opportunity to transfer to 18 different countries to continue their studies "without being affected", Saudi Arabia's Deputy Minister of Educationfor Scholarship, General Supervisor of Cultural Attachés Jasser al-Harbash told Al Arabiya English on Tuesday.

According to the Toronto Star, Canada's largest export recently has been armoured tanks and personnel carriers.

"I think they're being sensitive for a very important reason".

"We will always speak up for human rights, we will always speak up for women's rights around the world", she told reporters in Vancouver.

Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has launched a grand reform plan, called Vision 2030, that aims to transform the kingdom from a staunchly conservative petrostate to a more socially liberal country less dependent on oil.

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