Saudi Arabia resumes flights to Canada as relations normalize after 2018 spat
A Saudi Arabian Airlines plane Flight SV872 from Jeddah is shown at an isolated area at Manila's International Airport in Pasay, south of Manila, Philippines on Tuesday, Sept. 20, 2016. Saudia, formerly known as Saudi Arabian Airlines, is resuming flights to Toronto in December, after five years of no direct connections with Canada since a 2018 spat over the Liberals' loud condemnation of the kingdom's human-rights record. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Aaron Favila
Dylan Robertson, The Canadian Press
Published Friday, September 29, 2023 7:30PM EDT
Last Updated Friday, September 29, 2023 7:30PM EDT
OTTAWA - Saudi Arabia's national airline is resuming flights to Canada after a five-year diplomatic spat.
Saudia, formerly known as Saudi Arabian Airlines, will fly three times a week between Jeddah and Toronto's Pearson International Airport starting Dec. 2.
Transport Canada says it's the first time there have been direct routes between the two countries since 2018, when Saudi Arabia suspended flights as it protested the Canada's loud condemnation of its human-rights record.
That year, Global Affairs Canada called on the country to “immediately release” detained women's rights and democracy activists.
In response, Saudi Arabia recalled its ambassador from Ottawa and expelled Canada's envoy, while also moving to reduce the number of its citizens studying in Canada.
The two countries agreed in May to welcome new ambassadors to each other's capitals.
Saudi Arabia is trying to grow its tourism economy, after years of largely restricting visas to those travelling for religious or business purposes.
The Canadian Press has reached out to its embassy in Ottawa for comment on the resumed flights.
The spat between Canada and Saudi Arabia occurred just months before the murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi at a Saudi consulate in Turkey.
Saudi Arabia has denied findings by U.S. intelligence agencies that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman had approved his killing.
Before the diplomatic spat, the Liberal government had temporarily paused arm sales to Saudi Arabia over reports the country's Canadian-made light armoured vehicles were being used in a bloody conflict in Yemen.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 29, 2023.