The sudden and developing tension between Saudi Arabia and Canada is having a big affect on Saudi Arabian students at the University of Regina.
Over 150 students from that area are attending the post secondary institution in the Saskatchewan capital.
All this appears to have a risen from a tweet from this past Friday from a tweet from Global Affairs Canada.
Canada is gravely concerned about additional arrests of civil society and women’s rights activists in #SaudiArabia, including Samar Badawi. We urge the Saudi authorities to immediately release them and all other peaceful #humanrights activists.
— Foreign Policy CAN (@CanadaFP) August 3, 2018
In response, Saudi Arabia has declared a freeze on new trade with Canada. A tweet from a spokesman from the Saudi Education Ministry, Mubarak Alosaimi, has indicated they’re working on an “urgent plan” to transfer thousands of scholarships out of Canadian schools to other countries.
إنفاذاً للتوجيه السامي الكريم المؤكِّد على موقف المملكة حيال ما صدر عن الحكومة الكندية وما تضمنه التوجيه من إيقاف برامج التدريب والابتعاث والزمالة إلى كندا فإن الوزارة تعمل على إعداد وتنفيذ خطة عاجلة لتسهيل انتقال أبنائنا المبتعثين إلى دول أخرى وستعلن الخطة قريباً إن شاء الله.
— مبارك العصيمي (@mualosaimi) August 6, 2018
Associate Vice President (International) at the University, Livia Castellanos, said they’ve haven’t been officially told been their official contact, the Saudi Arabia Cultural Attaché, that Saudi students need to leave. However, she said they have learned that Saudi students, those whom are and aren’t part of the Sponsorship/Scholarship program, need to leave Canada.
“Our main concern is the well-being of the students,” said Castellanos. “The well-being of the students, psychologically, but also the well-being of the students in their professional careers. A lot of these students have not completed their studies yet, so that’s why they are here.”
Castellanos also noted many of those students are under-graduates, with only 15 being graduate students. 94% of students at the University are sponsored by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
“A lot of them are working towards obtaining a degree, or a masters degree or a P.H.D and we are very concerned for them because the time and the effort they invested to it, it seems like it is not going to be recognized.”
One of the biggest things though, for Castellanos, is the cultural component these students bring.
“I think that Saskatchewan is a place where we don’t have a lot of connection because of the geographical area that we are,” she said. “I think that these students brought to the University a very rich culture. They brought an aspect of diversity, inclusivity to our campus.”
And to lose that cultural richness in the campus community, for Castellanos, is going to be really sad.