The nation of Canada, under the guidance of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, has increasingly moved in a progressive leftward direction, and at times its leaders seem to think that the rest of the world is shifting as far to the left as they are — at the same pace.
Thus, when Canada decided to speak out against how the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia deals with its own activist citizens, officials in the Trudeau government were surprised by the rather forceful pushback they received from the Middle Eastern nation, which in essence boiled down to “mind your own business.”
Reuters reported that in response to demands from Canada that Saudi Arabia immediately release the women’s rights activists who have been detained in accordance with Saudi laws against political activism, the kingdom expelled the Canadian ambassador from Riyadh and recalled the Saudi ambassador from Ottawa.
In addition, the Saudi Foreign Ministry announced that all new trade and investment deals between the two nations would be placed on hold for the foreseeable future and issued a warning for Canada and other nations to refrain from interfering in Saudi Arabia’s internal affairs.
The Saudi Press Agency published an official statement from the Saudi Foreign Ministry that stated, “The persons referred to were lawfully detained by the Public Prosecution for committing crimes punishable by applicable law, which also guaranteed the detainees’ rights and provided them with due process during the investigation and trial.”
“The Ministry also affirmed that the Canadian statement is a blatant interference in the Kingdom’s domestic affairs, against basic international norms and all international protocols,” the statement continued. “It is a major, unacceptable affront to the Kingdom’s laws and judicial process, as well as a violation of the Kingdom’s sovereignty.”
The foreign ministry proceeded to state that the Canadian “affront” to Saudi sovereignty required a “sharp response” that would discourage other nations from similarly “attempting to meddle” in Saudi Arabia’s internal affairs.
Thus, the kingdom “confirms its commitment to refrain from intervening in the internal matters of other countries, including Canada, and in return categorically rejects any intervention in its domestic affairs and internal relations with its citizens. Any further step from the Canadian side in that direction will be considered as acknowledgment of our right to interfere in the Canadian Domestic affairs.”
As such, the Saudi ambassador to Canada was recalled to the kingdom and the Canadian ambassador was declared “persona non grata” and ordered to leave the kingdom within 24 hours, in addition to the freeze on new business deals and investments, along with the caveat that further actions may be taken if deemed necessary.
The new future leader of Saudi Arabia, 32-year-old Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, has taken many steps over the past year or two to try to modernize the kingdom through a series of political and societal changes, but it is a slow process and political activism remains illegal.
Some of those changes have involved easing restrictions on women — such as lifting the ban on women driving vehicles or allowing more women into the workforce — but given the longstanding Islamic traditions of the kingdom still held dear by many within the Saudi population, the crown prince has introduced the changes in a slow and methodical manner to prevent unrest over the efforts.
That rather nuanced position seems to have been lost on the Canadian government, which by its statements demanding the release of political activists seems to think that Saudi Arabia has already somehow vaulted past the rest of its region to become a bastion of progressive liberalism, which it most assuredly has not.
To be sure, all peoples in the civilized free world would prefer to see individuals detained for their political activism in other nations set free, and there is a strong possibility that the Trump administration is quietly urging as much behind the scenes.
But that is the key — urging for change in a diplomatic manner that respects the sovereignty of Saudi Arabia and recognizes that country must be allowed to make significant societal transitions at its own pace, not at the behest of loud public pronouncements from liberal nations that place them uncomfortably on the spot in front of their own citizens and the rest of the globe.
It remains to be seen if anything further will come from this diplomatic dust up between Canada and Saudi Arabia, or how it will impact the roughly $4 billion annually in trade deals and business investments already in existence, including a $13 billion defense contract for light armored vehicles built in Canada.
While we certainly understand what Canada was asking for — and to an extent agree and encourage the timely release of detained political activists who’ve committed no other crimes — we also understand Saudi Arabia’s position of being allowed by virtue of its sovereignty to conduct its own affairs at its own pace, without other nations sticking their noses into matters that have little or nothing to do with them.
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