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OPINION: Canadian govt is ‘very much alone’ in diplomatic row with Saudi Arabia

Published: Updated:

In an opinion piece published in Canadian newspaper The Globe and Mail on Tuesday, columnist John Ibbitson, criticized the way Canada dealt with Saudi Arabia in the recent diplomatic row.

He stressed on the “continuity-of-error” that Canada has been constantly suffering from, saying: “The Trudeau government has experienced more than its share of bad days.”

Referring to tweets posted by Chrystia Freeland that sparked the row last week, Ibbitson wrote: “Traditionally, Canadian governments have secured the release of political prisoners through quiet diplomacy. Those tweets were neither quiet nor diplomatic.”

He further stressed on the facts and consequences of the diplomatic crisis, which involved Saudi Arabia expelling Canada's ambassador, recalling its own envoy and cutting off trade ties with Ottawa.

Riyadh also suspended scholarships for Saudi students in Canada and plans to relocate them to other countries, while the state airline Saudia is suspending flights to Toronto.

“Canada earned the hostility of an important power in the Middle East. Other regional players have lined up in solidarity with the Saudis, and Canada’s traditional allies, including the United States and Britain, refuse to take sides. We are very much alone,” Ibbitson wrote.

The columnist blamed it all on “the incoherence of foreign policy and the government’s tendency to overpromise and under deliver.”

He also referenced the times that national interests were harmed because of “Canada’s liberals’ high-minded promotion of human rights internationally.”

He added: “Canada’s insistence on including labor, gender and environmental issues as part of trade negotiations with China caused China to walk away from those talks. Members of the new Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement are still fuming over Canada’s last-minute demands, which included new environmental and cultural provisions. And now, we have the Saudi imbroglio.

“And then there is the card that could trump all others, for better or worse. Nothing – not offending the Indians, affronting the Chinese, enraging the Saudis or upsetting the environmentalists – matters more than successfully renegotiating the North American free-trade agreement, which US President Donald Trump is threatening to cancel.”