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Lakehead waiting on further instruction as Saudi students face deportation

The Saudi Arabian government has called for 15,000 students to be relocated from Canadian universities to countries with similar education systems. It would impact roughly 100 students enrolled at Lakehead University.
James Aldridge
International vice provost James Aldridge of Lakehead University said he's waiting on further instruction to handle possible deportation of Saudi Arabian students enrolled in at Lakehead. (Michael Charlebois, tbnewswatch)

THUNDER BAY - Lakehead University is taking the “wait-and-see” approach for students who are facing deportation at the hands of the Saudi Arabian government.

Foreign relations between Canada and Saudi Arabia have grown hostile after the Canadian government condemned the arrest of two women’s rights activists in Saudi Arabia.

The Saudi government responded, among other measures, by ordering approximately 15,000 Saudi students studying in Canada to be relocated to another country.

Roughly 100 students enrolled in Lakehead’s fall semester are from Saudi Arabia.

Lakehead’s international vice provost James Aldridge says the university isn’t taking any firm action as of now.

“At this point it’s not a big response. Obviously, we’re paying close attention to the news that’s coming out,” said Aldridge.

While the Saudi government's plan remains unclear, the Globe and Mail is reporting students will be placed in study programs in countries with similar education systems, such as the United Kingdom or the United States.

“One-hundred students is not small, but right now our priority is on the fall semester. We need to take care of the students affected by this, and then move on.”

Aldridge said the university is looking toward Universities Canada for guidance on how to react to the developments.

According to City News Toronto, Montreal’s McGill University and the University of British Columbia are among those actively working with partners to gather information and assess the impact of the move on institutions and students.

But largely, it’s still a matter of waiting.

“I’m not surprised to hear there are incidents where they are trying to hold on to students,” Aldridge said. “But it’s very early in the process. I hope that in a week or two we’ll know much better how it’s going to impact us.”

However, as the relations between the two countries escalates, time isn’t on the side of Saudi students.

Saudi Airlines - the national carrier airline of Saudi Arabia - announced Tuesday it will suspend all flights to Canada beginning Aug.13.

The airline operates two routes between Toronto’s Pearson International Airport, and the Saudi cities Riyadh, and Jeddah. They serve as the only point-to-point airplane routes between the two countries.

Michael Charlebois

About the Author: Michael Charlebois

Michael Charlebois was born and raised in Thunder Bay, where he attended St. Patrick High School and graduated in 2015. He attends Carleton University in Ottawa where he studies journalism.
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