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Blame Canada: Six ways Saudi Arabia is hitting back

Canada's criticism of Saudi Arabia's human rights record has provoked a fierce backlash from the kingdom and its supporters
A man stands outside the Canadian embassy in the Saudi capital Riyadh (AFP)

As the diplomatic row between Saudi Arabia and Canada escalates, the kingdom and its supporters have turned to increasingly idiosyncratic methods to undermine Canada.

In addition to stopping flights to Canada and expelling the country's ambassador, there have been further harsh words and actions thrown in the way of the maple syrup-loving country:

Canadian 'prisoners of conscience'

The state-backed Al-Arabiya released a TV show about "prisoners of conscience" in Canada, decrying the persecution of Canadians for their political beliefs. Among those they cited were anti-feminist activist Jordan Peterson, Holocaust denier Ernest Zundel and former physics professor Denis Rancourt. 

Zundel was reportedly detained for two years when a judge ruled that his ties to neo-Nazi groups posed a national security threat, but neither Peterson, nor Rancourt appear to have ever spent time in jail in Canada.

Hospital care stopped

The Saudi Press Agency said early on Wednesday that the kingdom had stopped all medical treatment programmes in Canada, citing Saudi Health attache in the United States of America and Canada Fahd bin Ibrahim al-Tamimi.

All Saudi patients from Canadian hopsitals will now be transfered outside of the country, according to the SPA's report.


A hashtag began spreading shortly after the spat began, focusing on various problematic issues in Canadian society. One of the most popular issues raised was Canada's mistreatment of indigenous Canadians:

The hashtag emerged in response to the Canadian foreign minister's comments that her country was "deeply concerned by Saudi Arabia’s expulsion of Canadian ambassador".

In response, some Twitter users hit back by pointing out Saudi Arabia's repression of its own Shia Muslim population.

Students transferred

Saudi Arabia has said there are more then 12,000 Saudi students in Canada who will be transferred out of the country to the US, UK, Australia, New Zealand and Singapore.

The Undersecretary of the Education Ministry, Jassir Sulaiman, told state TV that the move would happen in line with the "top considerations of the general and educational interests of the students".

9/11 in Toronto?

Shortly after the spat began, the twitter account KSA Infographics tweeted an image with a caption reading "Sticking one's nose where it doesn't belong!" and a picture of an Air Canada plane heading towards the CN Tower in Toronto:

A screenshot of the deleted tweet
Shortly afterwards, the tweet was deleted and the image was re-uploaded without the airplane, after it was pointed out that - considering that Osama bin Laden and 15 of the 9/11 hijackers were Saudi citizens - it might be construed as a threat.

Forced asset sell-off

On Wednesday, the Financial Times reported that Saudis were being ordered to sell off any Canadian assets they held - such as equities, bonds and cash holdings - “no matter the cost".

According to FT, the sell-off began on Tuesday and while the amount of money invested in Canada by Saudi is relatively small, the move was nevertheless described by one banker as "severe stuff".

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