Diplomatic dispute displaces thousands
By Jake Wray, News Editor
Approximately 16,000 Saudi Arabian students might be forced to leave Canada due to the Saudi government revoking their scholarships.
This is only the latest development in a diplomatic dispute between Canada and Saudi Arabia after a tweet by Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland criticized the Saudi Arabian human rights record. The Saudi government responded by expelling Canada’s ambassador from Saudi Arabia and recalling its own ambassador from Canada.
Joseph Wong, vice-provost at the University of Toronto, said Saudi Arabian students have been notified that they must leave Canada within a month.
“I understand this is what is being circulated to students,” Wong told the Canadian Press. “I’m hearing from other universities in Canada that their students have been [receiving notices].
“I have never heard of anything like this before.”
Bessma Momani, a political science professor at the University of Waterloo, told the Toronto Star that the Saudi government will not rescind its decision to revoke scholarships for students studying in Canada.
“I don’t think, understanding Saudi Arabia’s foreign policy, that they’re going to climb down from this, so we’re at an impasse,” she told the Star.
The King Abdullah scholarship, administered by the Saudi government, pays all education and living costs, Momani told the Star. The Star also reported that a group of Saudi Arabian doctors who are in Canada for specialized training will be forced to leave. The doctors treat approximately 20,000 patients, Momani told the Star.
UBC is supporting its Saudi students with the sudden transition, according to a report by the Vancouver Sun.
“Understandably, many of our students have questions about how the current dispute between Canada and Saudi Arabia will affect them now and in the future, and we are working hard to help them manage with the limited information that is available, and to provide individual support as they consider the next steps for their studies,” UBC president Santa Ono told the Vancouver Sun.
“I appreciate this is a time of stress and uncertainty for UBC’s Saudi Arabian student population and I want to reassure them that we are doing all we can to provide required supports during this evolving scenario.”