Saudi Arabia's diplomatic row with Canada had Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, respond with harsh measures. (Cliff Owen/AP)

Saudi medical students allowed to stay in Canada

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Saudi Arabia’s medical students, interns, residents and fellows, currently enrolled in Canadian universities and teaching hospitals have been given a much valued reprieve, and can now remain in Canada to continue their programs.

Approximately 1,000 Saudi Arabian medical students were affected by an order from Riyadh to return home.

“allowed to continue in their present training programs”

It was the result of a diplomatic spat that began when Canada’s Foreign Affairs Minister, Chrystia Freeland tweeted a condemnation of Saudi Arabia.

On Friday August 3rd, Freeland tweeted:

“Canada is gravely concerned about additional arrests of civil society and women’s rights activists in Saudi Arabia, including Samar Badawi. We urge the Saudi authorities to immediately release them and all other peaceful human rights activists.”

The Saudi government responded almost immediately and their foreign ministry ordered Canada’s ambassador, Dennis Horak, to leave the country.

It referred to the words “immediately release” in Canada’s tweet  as “unfortunate, reprehensible, and unacceptable in relations between states.”

And it continued saying, “Any other attempt to interfere with our internal affairs from Canada, means that we are allowed to interfere in Canada’s internal affairs.”

Along with the expulsion of Canada’s ambassador, these were the other measures also imposed by the Saudi government:

  • A freeze on “all new trade and investment transactions” between the two countries.
  • The suspension of all Saudi flights to and from Toronto.
  • An order for Saudi students to leave Canadian schools.
  • Plans to transfer all Saudi nationals receiving medical treatment in Canada to hospitals outside the country.

In an interview with CBC’s News Network, Dr. Andrew Padmos, of CEO of Canada’s Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons, said many of these Saudi students are doctors pursuing post doc areas of research and specialities, and they’re very integrated into the Canadian medical system currently.

All Saudi students were to leave by August 31st, with the deadline extended to Sept. 22nd, 2018.

More than 1,000 Saudi medical trainees have been told they can stay in Canada ‘until such time as an alternative assignment could be arranged.’ (Radio-Canada/Martin Thibault)

Yesterday, the Saudi medical students received word from Riyadh that they would be “allowed to continue in their present training programs until such time as an alternative assignment could be arranged,” 

This means the medical students and fellows studying and working in 14 of Canada’s 17 medical schools and teaching hospitals, might be here until next summer.

There’s no word on what it may mean for some of the medical students who have already left.

As for the other estimated 8,000 Saudi students enrolled in other programs in Canada’s education system, there is no reprieve, they must return to Saudi Arabia.

(with files from CBC and AP)

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