It’s unclear how tensions between Saudi Arabia and the Canadian government are going to impact business and education in London, Ont.
General Dynamics Land Systems is a defence electronics company based in London that supplies light armoured vehicles, known as LAV IIIs, for Saudi Arabia. The federal government inked a $15-billion deal with the company in 2014.
But after a flare-up on Twitter over the long weekend, Saudi Arabia announced Sunday that it was suspending new trade agreements with Canada.
GDLS spokesperson Doug Wilson-Hodge declined Global News Radio 980 CFPL’s request for comment, saying the matter was between the federal government and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
Stephanie Carvin, an assistant professor at the Norman Paterson School of International Affairs in Ottawa, expects further details about local fallout later this week.
A big question moving forward is whether Saudi Arabia will consider the LAV III contract to be new business or not, she explained.
“The Saudis don’t need to buy these machines from Canada. There’s no shortage of people who are willing to send you light armoured vehicles.”
Days after a tweet by Ottawa’s Global Affairs asked for the “immediate release” of Samar Badawi, the sister of jailed dissident blogger Raif Badawi, and Nassima al-Sada, another prominent female activist, Saudi Arabia also expelled Canada’s ambassador and axed the scholarships for Saudi students studying in Canada.
Fanshawe College told 980 CFPL it has 21 students registered from Saudi Arabia, while Western University said it has 131 students from Saudia Arabia, including 54 medical trainees.
But Carvin suggests that feud may not be specifically about Canada; rather, it is about sending a message to Saudi Arabia’s regional partners and domestic critics that it won’t tolerate criticism, she said.
“It’s kind of become politically impossible for Canada to do anything with Saudi Arabia because of the controversy surrounding the one major arms agreement,” explained Carvin.
“It seems pretty clear Saudi Arabia wanted to make a pretty direct statement about how it feels about being criticized, and its relations with Canada, I suppose, were deemed expendable.”