Saudi Arabian students’ deadline to leave Canada extends to September 22

Saudi Arabian students on government-funded scholarships can now extend their stay until September 22, despite being previously ordered to leave Canada by August 31 after a diplomatic fallout between the two countries.

Their scholarships, however, will still end on August 31.

The Saudi Arabian Cultural Bureau (SACB) outlined this update in an August 23 statement, which was released on its website to address “several misconceptions and rumors” about the extension.

“There are no changes to what SACB has informed [students] that all scholarship funding will terminate at the end of the “Summer Academic Term”, namely, August 31, 2018,” reads the statement.

“SACB would like to confirm that all Saudi scholarship students are complying with the decision of the Government of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to leave Canada by at most the end of Summer Season, which is September 22, 2018.”

At UBC, there are 280 incoming and current Saudi Arabian students — 80 per cent of whom are supported by SACB.

This statement also follows reports of a number of universities receiving notification from the bureau about the extension for medical trainees and residents across Canada, including 44 at UBC. Dr. Roger Wong, executive associate dean of education at UBC’s faculty of medicine, confirmed that the university received a letter on August 22.

Those who have registered for September 26 and 27 Royal College examinations could also stay to take them, which he said is stated in the letter.

This extension is the latest update on the kingdom’s decision to recall more than 15,000 of its students in early August, as a retaliation to Canada’s call for the release of human rights activists.

Among them, UBC alumna Loujain Al-Hathloul has been detained on unknown charges since May 15 with no access to a lawyer. Her detainment spurred a May 29 faculty letter campaign and subsequently a May 30 direct open letter from UBC President Santa Ono to Minister of Foreign Affairs Chrystia Freeland, urging for further advocacy toward Al-Hathloul’s release.

“We are always going to speak up for human rights,” Freeland said in an August 6 press conference following Saudi Arabia’s announcement of the recall, while expressing support for affected students.

“We are always going to speak up for women’s rights, and that’s not going to change.”

In the meantime, the faculty of medicine is still working internally and with provincial health authorities to support its affected students and their family.

“The Faculty of Medicine is hopeful that the issues between Canada and Saudi Arabia can be resolved and that our Saudi Arabian postgraduate medical trainees can complete their programs without disruption, and continue to support the health care needs of British Columbians,” Wong said in a previous statement to The Ubyssey.

UBC has also urged affected students in general to contact enrolment services for support.