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Thousands of Saudi students in Canada caught up in political tiff

Last Updated Aug 8, 2018 at 6:38 pm PDT

The Embassy of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is shown in Ottawa on Sunday, Aug. 5, 2018. Saudi Arabia says it is ordering Canada's ambassador to leave the country and freezing all new trade and investment transactions with Canada in a spat over human rights. THE CANADIAN PRESS/David Kawai

More than 15,000 Saudi students may be impacted by the Saudi-Canada political conflict

UBC and UVic are just some of the universities lending their support to Saudi students affected by the latest feud

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – Those caught up in the latest strife between Ottawa and the Saudi government include more than 15,000 students in Canada.

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia suspended diplomatic ties with the feds on Sunday, expelling Canada’s ambassador and halting trade.

The KSA is also pulling the thousands of students attending school in Canada, leaving many questioning their next moves.

In a statement, the University of British Columbia says it’s going to continue to assist students “ordered to cease studies at Canadian universities by the government of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.”

There are about 280 Saudi nationals enrolled at UBC. “Of that number, about 80% are sponsored by the Saudi Arabian Cultural Bureau,” the university’s President and Vice-Chancellor Santa Ono explains in the statement

“I appreciate this is a time of stress and uncertainty for UBC’s Saudi Arabian student population and I want to reassure them that we are doing all we can to provide required supports during this evolving scenario,” Ono says.

The school is working to help those who many have questions about their studies, and is urging those affected by the political standoff to contact an advisor at isa@students.ubc.ca or 604-822-5021.

UBC’s Roger Wong with the Faculty of Medicine says they are working with postgraduate medical trainees and their families to support them during this challenging time.

“Saudi Arabian postgraduate medical trainees (residents and clinical fellows) have and continue to make valuable contributions to the UBC community and to health care here in British Columbia,” Wong says in an email to NEWS 1130.

“The Faculty of Medicine is hopeful that the issues between Canada and Saudi Arabia can be resolved and that our Saudi Arabian postgraduate medical trainees can complete their programs without disruption, and continue to support the healthcare needs of British Columbians.”

Meantime, the University of Victoria says it had 85 Saudi nationals enrolled in programs between the Summer and Winter semesters of 2018.

“We value all of our international students and are disappointed to learn that students from Saudi Arabia may not be able to achieve their educational aspirations at UVic,” Jim Dunsdon, associate vice president student affairs says in a statement. “They bring a unique perspective and diversity to our community and enrich our campus population in many ways.”

However, both schools admit it’s still too early to say what the implications will be for these international students, and add they have limited information at this time.

The political tension comes after Canada called for the release of two women’s rights activists from the Gulf country.

Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister Adel al-Jubeir says Canada made a mistake when Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland took to Twitter to criticize the Saudis for the arrests.

He says there’s nothing to mediate, and adds it’s now up to Canada to fix its mistake.

Canada will continue to be firm: Trudeau

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says Canada will stand firm in its ongoing diplomatic battle with Saudi Arabia.

Trudeau says he will always take strong and clear positions in private and in public on questions of human rights.

He says that is what Canadians expect of his government.

Trudeau was speaking in Montreal this afternoon at a news conference regarding funding for aerospace company CAE.

The prime minister added that Canada respects the importance of Saudi Arabia in the world and recognizes it has made progress on a number of important issues.