2 Canadians barred from leaving Malaysia, after tourists blamed for earthquake
Published Sunday, June 7, 2015 7:58AM EDT
Last Updated Sunday, June 7, 2015 11:19PM EDT
Two Canadians have been prevented from leaving Malaysia, accused by local authorities in Borneo of being part of a group of tourists who stripped off their clothes for a photo session at the top of a sacred mountain.
It’s not confirmed if the Canadians were in the photo or on the mountain, but they have been prevented from leaving the country.
A group of about 10 foreign tourists is said to have broken away from their main tour group to take off their clothes and pose at the top of the mountain. Those photos were taken sometime last week and then posted social media to the national park’s Facebook page.
They group is being blamed for angering mountain spirits and triggering a 5.9 magnitude earthquake on the Borneo mountain on Friday.
The death toll has been rising over the weekend and as of Monday morning, 16 people had been found dead on the climbing peak. Two climbers from Singapore were still missing on Mount Kinabalu and dozens were stranded for a few days.
Foreign Affairs in Ottawa confirms that two Canadians have been barred from leaving Malaysia.
“We are aware of reports that two Canadians have been barred from leaving Malaysia,” said Nicolas Doire, a spokesperson for the Department of Foreign Affairs in a statement.
“Canadian consular officials in Malaysia are in contact with local authorities to gather additional information and are providing consular assistance to the Canadian citizens as required,” the statement says.
Due to privacy, Foreign Affairs will not release the names of the two Canadians who are barred from leaving the country but CTV News has learned they are siblings in their 20s from Saskatchewan.
Liberal MP Ralph Goodale says that it is crucial that Foreign Affairs uses the maximum leverage it can to assist these Canadians in leaving Malaysia. “Incidents like this can provoke strange reactions and strong emotions,” Goodale said to CTV News.
“This was not deliberately mocking the country or the religion. That it was an innocent gesture, however ill-advised, innocent nonetheless and they should be returned to Canada promptly and safely,” says Goodale.
There has been backlash on social media against the mountaintop photos of the tourists, denouncing their actions.
“You did not merely offend, but you spat, and you stomped on our faces,” one local woman wrote in a Facebook post that went viral.
“But most insultingly, you mocked our heritage. You defiled Aki so proudly. And now, as of today, she is forever deformed. Disfigured,” the Facebook post goes on to say.
“Aki” refers to the local name for Mount Kinabalu, which means the “the revered place of the dead.” The mountain, in the eastern state of Sabah state in Borneo, is a World Heritage site.
The two Canadian siblings are not under arrest or in jail in Malaysia.
CTV News spoke with the mother of the two siblings who wouldn’t comment, other than to say the two are doing okay.
Appearing naked in photos at tourist destinations has become a trend in the last year as tourists are pushing the boundaries of what is considered appropriate.
Two Canadians were arrested in Peru the spring of 2014 after taking nude photos at the historical Machu Picchu site.