Maritime universities could see exodus of Saudi students
Published Tuesday, August 7, 2018 9:33PM ADT
Last Updated Wednesday, August 8, 2018 6:51PM ADT
Maritime universities are keeping a very close eye on a sudden and serious diplomatic spat between Canada and Saudi Arabia.
The trouble started Sunday when that country abruptly announced a series of measures designed to punish Canada for speaking out about the jailing of human rights activists.
Along with throwing out the Canadian ambassador and suspending air service between the two countries, Saudi Arabia is demanding thousands of its students leave Canada for new locations.
It all started with a tweet from Global Affairs Canada.
“Our government has consistently supported women’s rights internationally, and we have consistently spoken out for women's rights,” Canada's Minister of Foreign Affairs Chrystia Freeland said Tuesday.
Canada’s decrying the arrest of two female activists in Saudi Arabia clearly rubbed that country the wrong way.
In a breathtaking series of tweets of its own, Saudi Arabia severed diplomatic ties, suspended future trade and air travel to Canada, and ordered thousands of its students to find somewhere else to study.
With more than 200 registered at Dalhousie alone, the school told CTV News in a statement that “it values its Saudi students and their contributions to our community.”
“We are assessing the situation, along with Universities Canada and our university colleagues across the country,” Dalhousie spokeswoman Janet Bryson wrote in an e-mail.
A local Saudi student's association had even less to say, replying via Facebook message that its members are willing to transfer to the United States.
Some reports have suggested Saudi government scholarships could be pulled.
“The Canadian government didn't respect the Saudi law,” the group said. “And we stand with our government in this decision.”
None of this surprising to the man in charge of the Centre for Islamic Development, who says his organization will feel the effects of the sanctions -- but not nearly as much as the schools and the Canadian economy.
“Their visas, their passports, are they going to get it?” said Zia Khan. “Do they have to go back home?”
It's all designed to score-points with Donald Trump, Khan says.
“My hunch is, is that south of the border, because he’s not happy with our prime minister, he has to actually bully,” Khan said. “And it doesn't matter if lives are destroyed, it doesn't matter if people actually are put through immense amounts of suffering due to this kind of knee-jerk reaction.”
“I think it would be a shame for those students if they are deprived of their right to study here,” Freeland said.
For now, the schools - and the government - are taking a wait-and-see approach.
With files from CTV Atlantic’s Bruce Frisko.