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The Embassy of Saudi Arabia in Ottawa, Canada, Aug. 5, 2018 (Photo by David Kawai for The Canadian Press via AP Images).

The Saudi Arabia Dispute Highlights Canada’s Rights-Based Foreign Policy

Thursday, Aug. 9, 2018

On Aug. 2, Canada’s foreign minister, Chrystia Freeland, posted a statement on Twitter criticizing the arrest of a prominent female activist in Saudi Arabia, Samar Badawi, one of several civil society activists, many of them women, to be detained recently in the kingdom. The next day, Canada’s Foreign Ministry posted another critical tweet, calling on Saudi authorities “to immediately release them and all other peaceful #humanrights activists.” The Saudis quickly responded by expelling the Canadian ambassador and halting all pending trade and commercial agreements, and the spat is still escalating. So far, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has refused to shift course, saying his government would continue to highlight human rights issues overseas. To learn more about the history and context of Canada’s focus on human rights in its foreign policy, WPR spoke via email with Oonagh Fitzgerald, a former Canadian defense official who now directs the International Law Research Program at the Center for International Governance Innovation.

World Politics Review: What is the nature of political and economic relations between Canada and Saudi Arabia, and what does Canada’s position in the current dispute say about its approach to ties with the kingdom? ...

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