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August 23, 2018



New Ipsos poll: Overwhelming majority of Canadians support Freeland's criticism of Saudi Arabia’s human rights abuses

  • 80% of Canadians support the Minister of Foreign Affairs’ call for the release of human-rights activists detained in Saudi Arabia

  • 84% agree that Canada should stop selling arms to Saudi Arabia, amid UN’s accusations of grave human-rights violations by Saudi Arabia

  • 78% agree that Canada should continue to speak out against other countries that violate human rights, even if it means sanctions placed on Canada

A LARGE MAJORITY OF CANADIANS support their government's public criticism of human rights abuses in Saudi Arabia, despite the economic and political retaliation the Kingdom inflicted on Canada earlier this month.

A new Ipsos poll, on behalf of the global citizens’ movement Avaaz, reveals that 8 out of 10 Canadians support Minister of Foreign Affairs Chrystia Freeland's decision to call for the release of women’s rights activists detained in Saudi Arabia.

Despite the Kingdom’s swift decision to freeze diplomatic and business ties with Canada, 78% of Canadians agree that the government should continue speaking out against countries that violate human rights -- even if it results in sanctions placed on Canada.

Emma Ruby-Sachs, Deputy Director of Avaaz, said: "It's clear that the people of Canada proudly stand by Chrystia Freeland’s side in her defense of basic human rights. Her electorate have sent her a clear message today: No sanctions or threats should ever silence us from speaking up for the humanitarian values we believe in."

In addition to domestic support, more than 830,000 people from around the world have joined Avaaz's petition urging governments to stand with Canada, publicly call for the release of all peaceful human rights activists in the Kingdom, call to expel Saudi Arabia from the UN Human Rights Council, and consider sanctions unless the human rights situation improves.

It was reported just this week that Saudi Arabia is seeking the death penalty for five more activists detained on charges “solely related to their peaceful activism,” according to Human Rights Watch. This reportedly marks the first time a female activist faces execution for human rights-related work. Minister Freeland has voiced her concern about their arrest, but has not yet issued the same call for their “immediate release,” -- the phrasing thought to spark the Saudi-Canada dispute.

The poll also shows that more than 84 percent of Canadians oppose Canada's ongoing sales of arms to Saudi Arabia, amid accusations by the UN of grave human-rights violations by the Kingdom. The Saudi-led war in Yemen has resulted in the deaths of more than 10,000 civilians, according to the UN.

Earlier this month, an airstrike by the Saudi-led coalition struck a bus packed with children in the northern village of Dahyan, killing at least 51 people, including 40 children, according to the Red Cross. Saudi regime spokesmen have defended this horrific massacre, calling the school bus a “legitimate military target.”

An almost C$15 billion arms deal between Canada and Saudi Arabia, originally agreed in 2014, was then approved by Prime Minister Trudeau's Liberal government in 2016  when it began issuing permits for the export of combat vehicles. It also involves a 14-year support program that covers ammunition, crew training and embedded maintenance.


For information or interviews, please contact Will Davies: +1 646 628 1210 /

Full poll results and methodology are attached.