Saudi Arabia's diplomatic dispute with Canada: An explainer

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"We are deeply concerned that Saudi Arabia has expelled Canada's ambassador in response to Canadian statements in defence of human rights activists detained in the kingdom", said Freeland in a statement.

Thomas Juneau, an assistant professor at the University of Ottawa, said it is hard to determine what the economic impact on Canada would be without specifics on which trade deals will be affected. "We urge the Saudi authorities to immediately release them and all other peaceful human rights activists".

The ministry also announced "the freezing of all new trade and investment transactions with Canada while retaining its right to take further action".

"Any other attempt to interfere with our internal affairs from Canada, means that we are allowed to interfere in Canada's internal affairs", the Saudi ministry's said.

Judith Dwarkin, chief economist with RS Energy Group in Calgary, says eastern Canadian refineries import about 75,000 to 80,000 barrels per day of Saudi Arabian crude. Saudi Arabia also froze all trade with Canada and, according to the Saudi government-owned Al-Arabiya news agency, will transfer all students studying in Canada to other countries.

Bessma Momani, an analyst on Middle East affairs and professor at the University of Waterloo, said the move will resonate domestically.

According to Thompson Rivers University figures, there are 2,839 global students enrolled, nine per cent of which - 256 - are from Saudi Arabia, which makes up the third-most contingent of students at TRU, behind India (22 per cent; 625 students) and China (30 per cent; 852 students).

There could be a sentiment among allies that, "Finally the Trudeau government is getting poked back in the eye by the Saudis".

The sudden and unexpected dispute bore the hallmarks of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Saudi Arabia's 32-year-old future leader, whose recent foreign policy exploits include the war in Yemen, the boycott of Qatar and Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri's surprise resignation broadcast during a visit to the kingdom.

The European Commission said it's seeking clarification about the arrest of activists in Saudi Arabia.

In the meantime, the Saudi Ministry of Media tweeted they shut down the account until an investigation in the complaints finalised.

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