Canada defiant after Saudi Arabia freezes new trade over human rights call

The country's state airline also cancelled all direct flights to Toronto.

Canada has responded by saying it "will continue to advocate for human rights".

Saudi Airlines' move comes two days after the national government suspended all new trade agreements with Canada, recalled its own ambassador and gave Canada's chief diplomat 24 hours to leave the country.

The latest retaliatory move came after Canada's ministry of foreign affairs raised concerns about the arrest of women's rights activists in Saudi Arabia, including Samar Badawi (pictured main), sister of imprisoned blogger Raif Badawi.

Another trader said: "This is to me clearly part of the diplomatic dispute between Saudi Arabia and Canada, there is no other reason".

According to a Saudi source who spoke to the Canadian press, there are more than 15,000 Saudis studying in Canada on government-funded scholarships, grants or trainee programs.

Samar's brother, blogger Raif Badawi, was arrested in 2012 and sentenced to 1,000 lashes and 10 years in jail for "insulting Islam" in a case that sparked an global outcry.

The diplomatic row erupted after Canada tweeted about a recent arrest in Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabia has said the arrests targeted people who sought to "destabilize the Kingdom" and were done by following the country's legal guidelines.

"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.

Image copyright AFP Image caption Chrystia Freeland called for the release of Samar Badawi and her brother Raif Why were the women's rights activists arrested in the first place? "Canada stands together with the Badawi family in this hard time, and we continue to strongly call for the release of both Raif and Samar Badawi".

When asked about the contract, Freeland said the government "looks forward" to hearing from Riyadh about the future of the deal.

The Shura Council in Bahrain, the kingdom's highest legislative body, also issued a statement condemning Canada's interference in Saudi's affairs.

European traders said on Tuesday that Saudi Arabia's main wheat-buying agency has told grains exporters it will no longer accept Canadian-origin wheat and barley.

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

  • Joey Payne