Canada announced resuming relations with Saudi Arabia this Wednesday despite the fact that human rights issues are still worrying in the Kingdom.
In August 2018, the government of Canada decided to risk diplomatic relations with Saudi Arabia due to the growing cases of gross human rights violations in the Kingdom.
In a series of tweets back then, Canada’s foreign affairs ministry strongly rebuked the Kingdom for an ‘inhumane approach’ in dealing with critics of the Saudi government and called for the release of jailed Saudi journalists and human rights activists.
In reaction, Saudi Arabia expelled Canada’s ambassador, recalled thousands of students studying in the North American country, and suspended future trade with Ottawa. But now, after more than nearly five years, Saudi Arabia and Canada have both announced that they will resume diplomatic relations.
In separate statements, the two countries said they would “restore the level of diplomatic relations” that had been in place prior to the 2018 spat. Each side will also appoint a new ambassador. Saudi Arabia has yet to announce its selection, while Canada named Jean-Philippe Linteau, a longtime member of its Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade.
Human rights issues no longer a concern for Canada!
But the irony is that the restoration of ties between the two countries is happening while the human rights situation in Saudi Arabia has not only not improved during the past five years, but it has gotten even worse in some aspects.
According to latest the report by Amnesty International, Saudi Arabia is one of the worst countries regarding respect for human rights. This was a result of the government’s ban on protests, limits on free expression and civil society organizations, and the inability of citizens to vote or participate in public life. Last but not least, “Saudi Arabia executed 147 people in total only in one year (2022), more than double the 2021 figure which was 69 executions,” the Amnesty International report said,
It is all Bin Salman’s job!
Since coming to power in 2015, Mohammed Bin Salman has sought to be portrayed as a reformist at home and abroad. However, he has restored to extremist and violent policies that have left the young Crown Prince a dictator-like image.
He has been accused of being the “architect” of the devastating war in Yemen that has led to a humanitarian crisis, enforced a blockade on Qatar, arrested dozens of members of the Saudi royal family who questioned his policies, and confined and reportedly forced Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri to resign.
But it was the killing of Jamal Khashoggi on October 2, 2018, that sparked global condemnation over human rights issues in Saudi Arabia, especially the horrifying fact that Bin Salman was the mastermind behind the murder and that he ordered a terror team to assassinate the Washington Post journalist at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey.
According to a four-page report by the US intelligence agencies released in February 2021, Bin Salman “had a personal hand in the violent murder of one of his most prominent critics, a columnist and former Saudi insider who was living in exile in the US and used his platform to decry the prince’s crackdown on dissent”.
But it seems that human rights issues are beginning to come second for Canada, and this country is prioritizing trade and political engagement with Saudi Arabia. After all, the Kingdom is the world’s leading crude exporter, and only in 2021, it exported more than $1.51B crude petroleum to the North American country. And now, Canada seems to be willing to do anything to increase this trade volume, even at the cost of closing its eyes on human rights violations in Saudi Arabia.