After recent diplomatic tensions between Canada and Saudi Arabia, 79 international students studying at Queen’s will be returning home before the fall term begins.
The students are spread across undergraduate, graduate, School of English, executive education, and postgraduate medical training programs. According to a statement from the University, the Saudi government directly sponsors 56 students studying at Queen’s.
Most of the sponsored students are medical trainees providing patient care at Kingston Health Sciences Centre (KHSC) across 16 programs.
Tensions between Canada and Saudi Arabia came to a head last week after a tweet from Minister of Foreign Affairs, Chrystia Freeland, condemned the arrests of Saudi women’s rights activist, Samar Badawi.
“Very alarmed to learn that Samar Badawi, Raif Badawi’s sister, has been imprisoned in Saudi Arabia,” Freeland wrote in the tweet. “Canada stands together with the Badawi family in this difficult time, and we continue to strongly call for the release of both Raif and Samar Badawi.”
Very alarmed to learn that Samar Badawi, Raif Badawi’s sister, has been imprisoned in Saudi Arabia. Canada stands together with the Badawi family in this difficult time, and we continue to strongly call for the release of both Raif and Samar Badawi.
— Chrystia Freeland (@cafreeland) August 2, 2018
Amid a series of harsh diplomatic measures, the government of Saudi Arabia has since ordered a withdrawal of its more than 15,000 international students studying in Canada.
Almost 1,900 students from Saudi Arabia—or one in five of all students from the country—are enrolled at Ontario universities in both undergraduate and graduate level programs.
In a statement posted to Queen’s website last week, the University shared support and resources for Saudi students while announcing the recall.
“Queen’s values the contributions of our Saudi Arabian students and hopes that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia will reconsider its decisions to repatriate Saudi students and their families,” the statement read.
On Tuesday, Interim Provost and Vice-Principal (academics), Tom Harris, issued a statement saying the University is “exploring options” to help transition students out of their studies at Queen’s.
Harris wrote the University is looking at online courses, credit transfer arrangements with partner schools, academic leave, fast-tracking PhD defense and graduation dates and other “creative solutions” for the affected Saudi students.
In addition, KHSC Director of Medical Affairs, Chris Gillies, made an announcement last week saying the centre will be “working closely” with Queen’s to ensure there’s no impact on patient care as a result of the 37 medical students leaving their ranks.
Gillies noted the Saudi medical students working at KHSC are an “integral part” of the organization and their contributions to the centre have been greatly valued.
In a written statement to The Journal, AMS President Miguel Martinez said “we recognize this is a challenging time for many students across the country. We will focus on supporting our students who have been affected, while we await further information.”
“We encourage any students impacted to visit the Queen’s University International Centre and speak with the International Student Advisor,” Martinez wrote.
This story is developing and will be updated when more information is available.
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