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How Canada and Saudi Arabia prove their leadership skills

Written By | Aug 11, 2018
Canada, Saudi Arabia, Justin Trudeau, Hawraa Zackary

WASHINGTON:  It is time for a shout out to both Trudeau and Saudi Arabia officials. Each has proven strong leadership skills.  The decision by Justin Trudeau to confront Saudi Arabia’s (SA) human rights violation, or rather invite Saudi Arabia to respect human rights, over a tweet was faced with a number of good and bad responses.

Twitter Diplomacy

Saudi responded by closing its embassy in Canada and asking approximately 16000 Saudi students to return home in addition to halting medical treatment of its citizens in Canada. The Kingdom also asked Canadian diplomats to leave its country.

Direct flights from Canada to Saudi Arabia are canceled, businesses between the two countries are in the air, and more limitations might arise as these two countries go forward.

In addition, there is a number of arms deals between the two countries. How this new conflict will affect these deals is unknown as of now.

Politicians critique Trudeau by saying his action did not do any good for any of the sides. Economists say this decision results in unpleasant and unnecessary financial detriments.

Canada’s stance on human rights

Even after so many negative responses, Trudeau came back by emphasising that Canada will continue to speak out “clearly and firmly” on human rights around the globe and the spokeswoman for the foreign minister said:”Canada will always stand up for the protection of human rights, including women’s rights, and freedom of expression around the world. Our government will never hesitate to promote these values and believes that this dialogue is critical to international diplomacy.”

Cutting relationships with Canada are risk-free for Saudi Arabia

Canada has always been too peaceful, too nice country with a positive global image. This country is not involved in wars. It opens doors to immigrants and does not get involved in Arab nations’ drama. Canada creates job and educational opportunities for foreigners and they care about the ecosystem.

In general, Canada is too peaceful to befriend Saudi Arabia.

In 2017 the liberal government announced Canada will welcome nearly one million immigrants over the next three years. The number of migrants will climb to 310,000 in 2018, up from 300,000 in 2017. That number will rise to 330,000 in 2019 then 340,000 in 2020.

Trudeau’s administration has admitted 39,671 refugees into a country with a population of about 36 million.

Furthermore, in June 2018 Trudeau tweeted,
“To those fleeing persecution, terror & war, Canadians will welcome you, regardless of your faith,” and “Diversity is our strength.” – Justin Trudeau

The positive and friendly politics of Canada is very different from how the Saudi King runs his country.

Chances are the Kingdom is just using an opportunity to send a strong message to the rest of the world saying if you want to do business with Saudi Arabia, cover up my violations. As Abdullah Alaoudh, a senior fellow at Georgetown University’s Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding states the message the crown prince is sending is,

“We don’t have to be a liberal democracy to be allies. And at the same time
we are not going to be a liberal democracy at any point in the future so forget it.
So let’s talk about strategic interests and oil and things like that.’”

To be fair, the Kingdom‘s decision is clever. It took minimal risk to communicate an important message to the world. This is politically and strategically a good decision.

On the other hand, Trudeau made a great move too. He risked some economic gain by sending an important message out, a message that all the leaders of free countries have failed to communicate: to that is to take real action to defend human rights and to keep standards high.

One can barely imagine the impact such behavior is going to have on refugees and immigrants in Canada. They will do their best to serve Saudi Arabia and be loyal to the land that gave them safety and peace.

More to be done

It would be ideal if Europe and the U.S. supported Canada’s call for improvement in the Kingdom’s human rights record. However, the official response from the European Union and the U.S. is mute.

In a world that leaders of free countries choose politics and money over values, Trudeau stood up, alone but strong.

So both leaders, Trudeau and King Salman take some risk by sending strong messages out. Shout out to both although as a human rights defender I can say Canada did not lose but gained much respect and loyalty when Saudi Arabia proved its aggressive and unfriendly policies.



Hawraa Zakery

As a human rights activist, Hawraa Zakery is a freelance writer on contemporary and international issues. In addition to researching human rights issues at Shia Rights Watch, Hawraa is a mental health therapist at The Key Center, and work place well-being coach at Mind Your Work. She is a contributor to,, ireport.cnn and