Saudi Arabia on Monday expelled Canada's ambassador and recalled its own envoy while freezing all new trade and investments, after Ottawa denounced a new crackdown on women and human rights activists in the kingdom.
But Saudi Arabian Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir tweeted that Canada's position was based on "misleading information", adding that anyone arrested was "subject to Saudi laws that guarantee their rights".
Pain at the gas pumps will not be an issue if escalating tensions between Ottawa and Saudi Arabia result in the oil-rich Gulf state halting Canada-bound shipments of its most famous export, according to a leading petroleum industry expert. "This is something where we know we need to lead with our values".
"Canada will continue to advocate for human rights and for the courageous women and men who push for these fundamental rights around the world", she said in a statement.
The spokesman of the Ministry of Education Mubarak Al-Ossaimi confirmed that the ministry is working on preparing and carrying out an urgent plan for facilitating the transfer of Saudi scholarship students to other countries.
While department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said USA officials have raised human rights concerns with the Saudis in the past, she stressed that Riyadh and Ottawa "need to diplomatically resolve this together". The Saudi recall affects students receiving scholarships from that government.
Weeks called the development "unfortunate" and added university presidents from across Canada will gather via a conference call later this week to get a better sense of what the possible impact will be.
The Saudi Foreign Ministry cited remarks last week by Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland and the Canadian embassy in Riyadh, criticizing the arrests of women's rights activists such as Samar Badawi.
The Saudi foreign ministry singled out the words "immediately release", calling the phrase "unfortunate, reprehensible, and unacceptable in relations between states".
The move came after Germany's foreign minister last November remarked that Lebanon was a "pawn" of Saudi Arabia after the surprise resignation of its Prime Minister Saad Hariri while in Riyadh.
The agency tweeted that it was "gravely concerned" about certain detentions in the Kingdom, specifically that of Samar Badawi, the sister of a blogger jailed by Saudi authorities.
The United States also urged Riyadh to "respect due process" and disclose information about their legal status.
The European Commission also struck a neutral tone in its response, saying it is seeking clarification about the arrest of activists, but avoided being drawn into the dispute between Riyadh and Canada. "We will be reaching out to them to try to support them as best we can", said Darling.
The dispute looks set to damage what is a modest bilateral trade relationship worth almost $4bn a year.
"We're a little bit surprised by this sudden decision", said Associate Vice-President Livia Castellanos with University of Regina's global program.
"Saudi Arabia is shooting itself in the foot".
Riyadh accuses Ottawa of meddling Riyadh accused Ottawa on Tuesday of interfering in its internal affairs.
Canada has said it's alarmed by the move out of Saudi Arabia, but has not walked back the comments that apparently prompted the row in the first place.
"Saudi Arabia has taken a very public stand emphasizing the decisiveness of their leadership in defending their sovereignty" Ms Diwan said.