The House

Advice to Canada on Saudi Arabia: stand firm

Canada should stick to their position as the diplomatic dispute with Saudi Arabia picks up momentum, according to a Middle East expert who has advised the Pentagon.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, right, has refused to apologize to Saudi Arabia, which continues to imprison activists despite reforms brought in under Crown Mohammed bin Salman, left. (Cliff Owen/AP, Patrick Doyle/CP )
Listen8:44

Canada should stick to their position as the diplomatic dispute with Saudi Arabia picks up momentum, according to a Middle East expert who has advised the Pentagon.

"I would stand firm," Bruce Riedel, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, told The House.

"I don't think Canada is to be blamed for this."

Recent tweets from Canada condemning Saudi Arabia for jailing an activist infuriated the kingdom.

Saudi Arabia expelled the Canada's ambassador, put a freeze on "all new trade and investment transactions" between the two countries, suspended all Saudi Arabian Airlines flights to and from Toronto and ordered Saudi students home.

Later in the week, a Saudi minister added that oil shipments wouldn't be affected, as the kingdom has a "firm and long-standing policy" that petroleum supplies are not influenced by political considerations.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau signalled that his government will continue to use Twitter and social media as a means of conducting foreign relations.

Arab states have rushed to defend the Middle Eastern kingdom, while Canada has largely had to stand alone, something we may have to get used to according to analysts. 2:31

No countries have leapt to Canada's defence in the spat, while several countries have spoken out in support of the kingdom.

Riedel called the response from the international community "outrageous," but concluded it wasn't surprising.

Saudi Arabia has taken similar action in the past against Germany and Sweden after similar comments from their foreign ministers.

"I think Saudi Arabia is trying to use Canada to make an example," Ridel added.

He urged Canadian leaders not to change their tactics, but instead to reach out to their allies — like the EU and U.S. — for support. 

"You might want to remind them that there will be times in the future when the United States wants Canada's help."

Canada should stick to their position as the diplomatic dispute with Saudi Arabia picks up momentum, according to Bruce Riedel, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. 8:44