Saudi Arabia appears to threaten Canada in Tweet

Saudi Press Agency

Saudi Press Agency

The photo was posted after tensions between Saudi Arabia and Canada erupted this week over the the Trudeau government's call to release jailed Saudi women's rights activists. Riyadh has also recalled its ambassador from Ottawa and has also expelled the Canadian ambassador in Saudi Arabia.

Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Canada's Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland hold a news conference after participating in the NATO Summit in Brussels, Belgium July 12, 2018.

"We are always going to speak up for human rights, we are always going to speak up for women's rights and that is not going to change, " Freeland said from Vancouver on Monday.

Canada's largest refinery in Saint John, N.B., owned by Irving Oil, relies on Saudi Arabia for almost 40 per cent of its crude supply, according 2018 statistics from the National Energy Board.

Freeland's comments come a day after Saudi Arabia made the decision in retaliation to a Global Affairs Canada tweet that expressed concerns about the arrests of activists in the kingdom.

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Among the arrested is Samar Badawi, an award-winning women's-rights activist who sought to abolish the country's male-guardianship laws.

"For Saudi Arabia to punish Canada, it's fairly easy because we're not an important country for them, either are they for us", he said.

Travel to the country will affected in light of an announcement from Saudia Airlines on Tuesday that it will suspend flights to and from Canada starting August 13.

Badawi's wife Ensaf Haidar has been granted asylum by Canada, where she is raising their three children.

Canada's economic relationship with Saudi Arabia is not particularly significant to Riyadh, unlike the United States or other Western partner governments, which experts say makes Ottawa an easier target.

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Media reports also suggest Saudi Arabia may cancel thousands of scholarships for students now attending school in Canada.

Riyadh's singling out of Canada is aimed at strongly discouraging other critical Western governments from speaking out, observers say.

'Canada is easier to cut ties with than the rest, ' Bessma Momani, a professor at Canada's University of Waterloo, told AFP.

Counting several Saudi diplomatic figures among its more than 350,000 followers, the now-deleted account is run by volunteers and managed by Saudi youth with an interest in technology and social media, according to an affiliated website.

But the damage could be more significant if a $15 billion deal agreed in 2014 for Canada to sell Riyadh light armoured vehicles is scrapped, as thousands of jobs in Canada could be lost, Juneau said.

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Garry Keller, who was chief of staff to ex-Conservative Foreign Minister John Baird, said the government needed to look at how it could help businesses that might be affected.

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