Canada, Saudi Arabia and Iran

Veronica Abbass


On October 15, Canadians elected Justin Trudeau, whose sound-bites “A Canadian is a Canadian is a Canadian” and “because it’s 2015” mesmerized the nation and the world. Two and a half months later, it’s 2016, and Rosemary Barton the host of CBC’s Power and Politics is asking the new government some tough questions about foreign policy and human rights. During Barton’s interview with Stéphane Dion, Dion confirmed that despite the ongoing conflict between Saudi Arabia and Iran,

A $15-billion contract signed under the previous government to supply Saudi Arabia with light-armoured military vehicles won’t be revisited after the execution of dozens of prisoners in that country.

Dion goes on to say,

“We’ll review the process by which these contracts are assessed in the future. But what is done is done and the contract is not something that we’ll revisit.”

Barton also interviewed ex-Minister of Foreign Affairs John Baird to get his perspective on the tensions between Saudi Arabia and Iran. During the interview,

Baird said while Canada and Saudi Arabia “share many different values” there are also common interests. There’s an economic interest linked to the deal, he said, but also a shared interest in security as the battle against the Islamic State continues. (My emphasis)

It should be obvious that share is not the best word to use when discussing the difference between Canada’s and Saudi Arabia’s commitment to human rights, religious freedom and foreign policy and Canada and Saudi Arabia’s common interests are economic and self-serving.

CBC reports that Dion did issue a press release condemning Saudi Arabia’s

execution of 47 individuals, including al-Nimr, on Jan. 2, expressing concern that it could further inflame sectarian tensions.

In December, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau welcomed Syrian refugees arriving in Toronto with what have become his trademark touchy-feely phrases: “Welcome to your new home” and “You are home. Welcome home.” What Trudeau didn’t tell the Syrian refugees is despite Canada’s promise to continue to raise concerns “about human rights and due process with senior Saudi Arabian officials on a regular basis,” Canada continues to enter into trade with Saudi Arabia and is seriously considering opening an embassy in Tehran “to play a more robust role in easing tensions between Saudi Arabia and Iran.”

Canada’s attitude towards Saudi Arabia and Iran is consistent with Canada’s attitude toward multi-multiculturalism. Jean’s Chrétien’s statement in June of 2000 makes the connection between Canada’s Multiculturalism Act (1988) and Canada’s foreign policy:

Canada has become a post-national, multicultural society. It contains the globe within its borders, and Canadians have learned that their two international languages and their diversity are a comparative advantage and a source of continuing creativity and innovation. Canadians are, by virtue of history and necessity, open to the world.

Supporters of Canadian multiculturalism “argue that cultural appreciation of ethnic and religious diversity promotes a greater willingness to tolerate political differences.” Chrétien’s assertion that Canadians are “open to the world,” and Canada’s “willingness to tolerate political differences” suggest that the Canadian government won’t take a principled and unequivocal stand against the political and human rights abuses Saudi Arabia and Iran.

Multiculturalism is a scourge: it forces federal, provincial and municipal governments to accommodate diverse ideologies, practices and beliefs, it hampers the creation of a truly secular society and it limits Canada’s influence on the world stage.


3 comments on “Canada, Saudi Arabia and Iran
  1. Sean says:

    Canada is not a major trading partner of Saudi Arabia, so trying to gain influence with them by threatening unilateral embargoes will help absolutely nothing except the egos of some idealists. Politics, and especially diplomacy, doesn’t work like that. We have tons of trade with China, for instance, which is a state of notorious torture and autocracy.

    So no, Canadians won’t “take a principled and unequivocal stand against the political and human rights abuses Saudi Arabia and Iran.” because that would be naive and silly at this moment. If an international coalition could be formed etc…. then maybe. But don’t suppose the Canadian government would gain some moral high ground by isolating itself and yelling righteous obscenities at diplomats of the world. Precisely nobody would thank us for that.

    You could put forward a coherent plan for Canada to deal only with those states and leaders whom it deems pure, but you cannot at the same time suggest that this will make Canada more influential – that’s just obviously not the case. Influence comes through interaction. Religious zealots in Saudi Arabia are losing their minds over the spread of “foreign” and particularly “Western” cultures and ideas in the kingdom. They would not mind if Canadians left and never returned. It’s the modernizers and reformers who are inviting Canadians into the kingdom that you would disappoint with your policy.

    Your opposition to multiculturalism sounds strange because the only reason given is that you fear “diverse ideologies, practices and beliefs”. Surely the diversity of these things is a not a problem. You must have some specific fear, but you don’t mention it.

    You also suggest that the Syrian refugees will be outraged by Canada’s role in the Middle-East. Firstly, Canada is not a major player in the Middle-East. Secondly, you don’t really articulate what you see as the problem with that role. The easing of tensions between Saudi Arabia and Iran is a laughable goal because, as I mentioned, Canada is not halfway important enough in that region to sway these two determined rivals. But that does seem like a good goal – Syria would probably have many fewer refugees if that rivalry didn’t exist, for instance. So I’m not really sure where you are going with that.

    Please consider this just a friendly (if uncalled for) critique. I think you somewhat overstate your case a few times, which damages your credibility / objectivity, but I appreciate the work you are doing to support secularism in general and atheism in particular.

    • David Rand says:

      You forget that Saudi Arabia is in a class by itself. It promotes jihadism throughout the world by funding mosques in many countries and promoting Wahhabism. All countries should terminate all commerce with Saudi Arabia in order to isolate it and help reduce the spread of islamist terrorism.

      As for multiculturalism, your comment is very naïve. We promote secularism, which means we oppose multiculturalism which is incompatible with secularism. The niqab fiasco alone is enough to prove that multiculturalism makes people do insane things, such as declaring wearing a face-covering a “right” even at a citizenship ceremony. This is a disturbing example of cultural relativism. Please read

      There are many resources which deal with the issue of multiculturalism. See, for example, “The Failure of Multiculturalism” ( or the video “What is wrong with Multiculturalism” (

    • David Rand says:

      One further point. In reference to multiculturalism (which, by the way, is NOT the same as cultural diversity) why do you say that we “fear” diverse things?? We oppose multiculturalism for solid, well-considered reasons, not out of some dubious emotional reaction. I find it suspicious that you would use such a word, especially in light of the fact that the proponents of multiculturalism often slander their opponents by making false accusations of xenophobia, intolerance or worse.
      Multiculturalism compromises freedom of conscience because it attaches greater value to ethno-religious affiliation than to universal human rights. I call it ethno-religious determinism.

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