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Saudi Arabia begins sell-off of Canadian assets 'no matter the cost'

Staff Writer |
Saudi Arabia ordered all Canadian assets be sold “no matter the cost” in the latest retaliatory action to Canada’s criticism of the kingdom’s detention of human rights activists, according to reports Wednesday.

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It also will stop purchases of Canadian wheat and barley and has ordered all Saudis in Canadian hospitals to leave the country.

There has been no response from the Canadian government as yet to the latest punitive measures taken by the Saudis.

But the asset sale order may explain a drop in the Canadian markets as an unknown investor Tuesday began selling off investments.

Canada called for the “immediate release” all detained human rights activists in Saudi Arabia, and the kingdom showed its displeasure by taking strong trade and diplomatic action.

It ordered the Canadian ambassador to leave the country, recalled its ambassador to Canada and told 16,000 Saudi students in Canadian colleges and universities to seek their education elsewhere.

Now it has instructed all Saudis in Canadian hospitals to leave the country, as well.

It also froze any new trade between the two countries.

When those moves were announced earlier this week, Canada stood firm, with Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland saying, “Canada will continue to advocate for human rights.”

But analysts said the kingdom’s harsh actions toward an ally is a case using Canada as an example of what could happen if other countries try to meddle in the domestic affairs of the kingdom. The U.S. has urged for a diplomatic solution between the two countries and other Western countries have not expressed support for Canada.

Rex Brynen, a political science professor at Canada’s McGill University, said the kingdom has been sensitive about outside interference in its domestic policies and has been “allergic to criticism.”

Since Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was installed as heir apparent last year, the kingdom has pledged to loosen some of the reins on its citizens, but the prince has also indicated an increasing intolerance of criticism from other countries.

The move could backfire, as financial experts claim selling off Canadian assets demonstrates a volatile business atmosphere that could scare off investors at a time when Saudi Arabia is encouraging investment in the kingdom.

“These sort of actions are not going to assure minds about the stability of doing business there,” one market investor told the Financial Times.

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