Polling suggests the vast majority of Canadians hold a dim view of the Saudi Arabian government, which is controlled by the ruling House of Saud. It has drawn major international condemnation for mass executions and jailing and flogging atheists. A UN panel alleges the country has committed serious human-rights violations in a war it has waged in Yemen.
The Saudi embassy, however, would like Canadians to consider other aspects of Saudi life as it seeks closer ties with Canada. More than 14,000 Saudi students attend Canadian universities and colleges, and last year, Saudi Arabia teamed up with a U.S. agribusiness company to buy more than 50 per cent of the Canadian Wheat Board, now renamed G3 Canada.
The embassy is issuing invitations to “Saudi Cultural Days in Canada” from May 18 to May 21 that will include demonstrations of Arab cuisine, calligraphy, fine arts, music, henna design and handicrafts, and seminars on Saudi-Canada relations. A spokeswoman for the Saudi embassy said it is the first time in 25 years that the country has staged this cultural display in Canada, but firmly rejected the notion it has anything to do with the controversy over the massive arms sale.
Those who want to immerse themselves in the more authentic aspects of Saudi life and culture will be sadly disappointed. Ottawa officials canceled plans for demonstrations of state of the art democracy suppression technology, the art of cluster bombing pesky Houthi women and children, or how to behead a witch in less than 12 blows of a sword. And, for the kids, the Saudis announced they have hired entertainer Justin Trudeau to make balloon animals for all the little ones.