Trudeau vows to find killers of Canadian hostage in Philippines
June 13, 2016
With the second of two Canadians taken hostage last year in the Philippines murdered by his captors, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau affirmed Canada’s policy Monday of not paying ransoms to terrorists.
The Toronto Star reported Monday (June 13) that the Prime Minister is saying paying ransoms risks turning all those wearing the maple leaf into targets. The federal government is still seeking formal confirmation of Hall’s death.
However, Arjun Chowdhury, an assistant professor of political science at the University of British Columbia, told the Star that Canadians remain at risk abroad irrespective of whether ransom is paid.
“Is this going to eliminate the risk? No. The big fear for the government is that individuals are kidnapped and executed to send a signal,” he said.
“When country A pays a ransom and country B does not, you have an incentive to kidnap somebody from country B and execute them to send a signal to the government and citizens of country A, ‘Look, we’re serious.’”
This, he said, is why Trudeau was so eager to get agreement at the recent G-7 meeting that nobody pays a ransom.
Canadians Robert Hall, left, and John Ridsdel in a still from an undated militant video. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says Canadian officials are working closely with authorities in the Philippines to confirm the death of Robert Hall at the hands of extremist group Abu Sayyaf.
“As long as these other governments are paying ransom, the risk to Canadians overseas is still there,” he said. “If you’re a kidnapper, every now and then you have to send a signal that you’re serious. Because otherwise people won’t pay or will pay less money.”
Hall and fellow Canadian John Ridsdel — along with Hall’s Filipina girlfriend Marites Flor and Norwegian Kjartan Sekkingstad — were kidnapped Sept. 21, 2015, from a resort marina on Samal Island by
Ridsdel, 68, a semi-retired mining executive, was beheaded in late April.
The captors then set a deadline of June 13 for ransom to be paid or, they said, one of the remaining Western hostages would be killed.
In a video released by the captors after Ridsdel’s murder, the three surviving hostages pleaded with their embassies and the Philippines government for assistance.
In the video, Hall said the governments had “the capacity to get us out of here . . . I’m wondering what they’re waiting for.”
Trudeau vowed Monday to work with international allies “to bring those responsible to justice, however long it takes.” But he insisted that paying ransom fuelled terrorism and endangered more Canadians.
The status of the two remaining hostages was not known. Local police around the southern city of Jolo said patrols had been dispatched but no evidence was found. Efforts by the Philippine military to locate the hostages before the murder of the two Canadians had also failed.
Abu Sayyaf emerged in the early 1990s as an offshoot of a separatist rebellion by minority Muslims in the predominantly Catholic nation. The group has relied on extortion and ransoms from kidnappings, mostly of Western tourists and missionaries.
Chowdhury said the Abu Sayyaf group, though it has been cut from about 1,000 to 300 by successful military operations in the Philippines, is now essentially a criminal group and kidnapping “is their main revenue source.”
In that sphere, rescuing hostages, authorities “have been unsuccessful for quite a long time,” he said.
Where the group operates is remote, lightly policed and sparsely populated, he said.
Police “don’t have good local intelligence,” he said. “Abu Sayyaf can intimidate the locals to not provide information, because they’re on the ground and the Filipino government is not on a consistent basis.”
Trudeau said “the Hall family has shown great strength of character and resilience under these terrible circumstances.”
According to some media reports, the family had tried to negotiate personally for Hall’s release, but a reported offer of $1.4 million was rejected by captors demanding more than $6 million per hostage.
“They have suffered a terrible loss and this is a devastating moment for them” Trudeau said. “Our thoughts are with them as they mourn this tragedy.”
He asked the media to “respect their privacy and allow them time to come to terms with their loss.”
RCMP Comm. Bob Paulson said the Mounties were working with authorities in the Philippines.
“We were working with families, trying to support families, trying to have them manage the terrible situation that they found themselves in; helping the local authorities to deal with the kidnapping,” he said.
“But, as you know, it’s a very difficult piece of geography, and it’s a very complex and challenging environment.
“We do have an extraterritorial investigation that we are pursuing to get the offenders who are engaged in these murders.”
Asked if there was anything more Canada could have done, Paulson said: “You know, I don’t think so.”