Debate over Canada's policy of not paying ransom
Published Monday, April 25, 2016 10:51PM EDT
The Canadian government’s stated policy of not paying ransom is under renewed scrutiny after the murder of hostage John Ridsdel in the Philippines.
Ridsdel was abducted alongside fellow Canadian Robert Hall, Norwegian Kjartan Sekkingstad and Filipina Marites Flor from a Philippine resort last September by militants from Abu Sayyaf, a radical Islamic group based in the country’s southern islands.
Hall was last seen in a video released by the terrorist group earlier in April. In the video, Hall urges for action from the government, which he says “has the capacity to get us out of here.”
“I’m wondering what they’re waiting for,” Halls says.
The federal government has publicly said it doesn’t pay ransom fees. That leaves it to families and groups working through third-parties.
Stratfor terrorism and security expert Fred Burton said there are few options.
“Either you rescue these hostages to get them out, or you pay the ransom and hope they're released. Because, as we saw, there potentially is no good outcome here.”
Critics say that bartering with terrorism groups could put Canadians travelling abroad at heightened risk.
It’s still unclear whether a third-party paid a ransom to ensure the safe release of Canadian diplomats Robert Fowler and Louis Guay, who were held in Niger in 2008.
A leaked U.S. State Department cable, made public in 2011 through WikiLeaks, includes correspondence between Libyan and U.S. officials stating that the Canadians were freed “in return for a ransom payment.”
The leaked cable does not say how much money was paid or who paid it.
The United States recently repealed a law that barred families from privately paying ransom fees to terrorist groups.
But there can be consequences for bartering with terrorist groups. Canadian journalist Amanda Lindhout, who was captured in Somalia in 2008 and held for 15 months, said her family was crippled by the costs of securing her release. (Lindhout wrote about the ordeal in the best-selling memoir “A House in The Sky.”)
Abu Sayyaf has freed hostages in the past. In 2014, the rebel group released two Germans, Stefan Okonek and Henrite Dielen, who had been held for ransom.
A spokesperson for the rebel group told a Philippine radio station at the time that the couple was freed after $5.6 million was paid.
With a report from CTV’s Senior Political Correspondent Glen McGregor