The conflict between Ottawa and Riyadh began after the Canadian Foreign Ministry expressed its concern over human rights in Saudi Arabia following the arrests of women's rights activists in the Arab kingdom, which Riyadh interpreted as an attempt at interfering in its internal affairs, subsequently expelling Canada's envoy to the country. Riyadh threatened that if Ottawa continues to allegedly meddle in its affairs, it would reciprocally interfere in Canada's.
The heated exchange between Canada and Saudi Arabia over alleged interference has not abated, but has simply shifted to Twitter.
A number of twitterians, allegedly from Saudi Arabia, started posting tweets in support of the rights of Canada's indigenous peoples, as well as in support of Quebec's independence — a Canadian province known for its strong separatist sentiment.
In Saudi Arabia we feel worried about Canada committing cultural genocide against Indigenous people. We also support the right of Quebec to become an independent nation.— خالد بن عبدالله آل سعود 🇸🇦 (@KAFTA78) August 5, 2018
Saudi Arabia could have easily supported the 1995 Quebec independence referendum through the funding of media campaigns and attacks against the Canadian government to secure a Quebecan victory but we do not meddle in other nations’ domestic affairs, clearly, unlike Canada.— 🇸🇦سعود بن سلمان الدوسري (@999saudsalman) August 5, 2018
Canadian Twitter users didn't hesitate to respond, mocking Saudi Arabia's human rights record and joking about Saudis' purported support for liberties while failing to permit a "liberty blog." The Canadian users also pointed out that Ottawa had made significant efforts to address the concerns of the Quebecois population.
In Canada we feel worried about Saudi Arabia’s treatment of women, minorities, foreign/domestic workers & people of other faiths.— Amanda (@ShooguhLipz) August 5, 2018
We support the right of the Yemeni people to live free of your reign of terror.
I am from Quebec we don't support Saudi Regime oppression.— John Jones (@jubatus1) August 6, 2018
Blog about liberty. What about simple dancing ffs?— Francis McCann (@IfNE1canMcCann) August 6, 2018
In Canada, we also support the right of Quebec to become an independent nation. We had two votes (referendums….Google ''voting'', cause I am sure you have no fucking idea what that is), and both times, Quebec decided to stay in Canada. Now go along and behead someone.— Eeyore D. Puppet (@iordpuppet) August 6, 2018
Well at least cultural genocide is not as bad as the genocide you guys are doing right now in Yemen! As for Quebec, you guys must be the only one doing so as even the Quebec population is not for separation! Funnier is you mentioning referendum when you guys dont believe in it!— Dominic Lachance (@dominiclachance) August 6, 2018
However, some Twitter users expressed skepticism as to whether it actually was Saudi citizens who had posted the tweets regarding Quebec's independence, as many of the posts looked strikingly similar, if not the same.
One guy here added a "moreover" for variety, I guess. pic.twitter.com/A1DpWuJdEL— Alheli Picazo (@a_picazo) August 6, 2018
The Saudis seem united on this issue.— Chris Edwards (@OneChrisEdwards) August 6, 2018
The online row was further fueled by a controversial post by a Saudi Twitter account named infographic_ksa, featuring a picture showing a plane flying towards the Toronto skyline and an Arabic proverb suggesting that Canada shouldn't "stick its nose" in Saudi Arabia's affairs. The tweet has since been deleted, but twitterians managed to take a screenshot of the post, which some twitterians interpreted as a threat to perpetrate a 9/11-style attack in Canada.
The Saudi Twitter account published an apology, saying that it did not intend to threaten anyone with the original post. According to the user, the plane represented the return of the Canadian ambassador to Canada.