Canada 'appalled' by death of Canadian kidnapped in Burkina Faso
Published Thursday, January 17, 2019 8:03AM EST
Last Updated Thursday, January 17, 2019 9:26PM EST
Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland has called the killing of a Canadian mining executive in Burkina Faso a “terrible crime,” and says Canada is working to bring those responsible to justice.
“We’re working closely with the authorities in Burkina Faso. This is a terrible, a terrible crime and Canada is absolutely committed to working with the authorities in Burkina Faso to bring those responsible to justice,” Freeland told reporters Thursday morning at the Liberal cabinet meeting in Sherbrooke, Que.
Kirk Woodman, a Halifax man, worked as geologist for Vancouver-based Progress Mineral Mining Company, where he served as vice-president of exploration, according to his LinkedIn page.
In a statement, the company said it “is heartbroken by the tragic loss of our colleague and dear friend.”
“Our thoughts and deepest sympathies go out to his family and we will continue to support them in whatever manner they may require.”
Jean Paul Badoum, a spokesperson for Burkina Faso's security ministry said Woodman was abducted during a raid of a local mining site in the northern part of the country late Tuesday night. He was later found dead the following day with several bullet wounds, 100 kilometres from the worksite in Oudalan province he was taken from.
Badoum said officials have yet to identify the kidnappers. Extremist groups have not taken responsibility for the incident.
Woodman's family released a statement Thursday morning.
“Kirk was a loving and hardworking husband, father, son and brother. Not a day will go by that he won't be missed," the statement reads. "Our family would like to thank everyone for the love and support we've received, but we ask for privacy while we grieve during this difficult time.”
David Duncan, a fellow exploration geologist and former colleague and friend of Woodman’s, told The Canadian Press the two worked together on several projects overseas spanning decades. These projects included the Youga gold mine in Burkina Faso in the early 2000s.
"We were the up-front guys, the go-in-first guys to see if there was anything there worthwhile," he said.
Duncan said working in western Africa had its challenges, including the possibility of contracting diseases or getting into a car crash, but in recent years the rise of Islamic extremism in the region has made working there even more precarious.
"It's gotten to be a much harder place,” he said. “We were never worried about being kidnapped. Today, it's a different world."
The Canadian government has previously issued strong warnings for Canadians to avoid travelling to parts of Burkina Faso, as many areas have seen foreign abductions. Global Affairs Canada told CTV News there are currently 589 Canadians registered in Burkina Faso, although registration is voluntary.
The Centre for Global Cooperation Research's Adam Sandor told CTV News Channel that Woodman was likely kidnapped to be ransomed, either by a militant group or by local bandits.
More than US$1 million has been paid since 2003 to militant groups in exchange for kidnapping victims, making the region particularly dangerous for foreign nationals.
Sandor says that Woodman had insurance, so in all likelihood Woodman's death was accidental, coming from one of three events:
"First, he could have been wounded in the actual event, second, it's possible that fought back while he was being kidnapped, in the car for example, and the kidnappers shot him, or third, he tried to escape," Sandor said.
Burkino Faso recently declared a state of emergency in the region where Woodman was taken, due to increased attacks by Islamic extremists along the borderlands near Niger.
"This is a place no Canadians really should be operating in," Sandor said, "unless they're under a significant armed guard."
Alpha Barry, Burkina Faso's minister of foreign affairs, wrote in a Facebook post that his government will investigate Woodman’s death.
"The government of Burkina condemns with the utmost energy this cowardly assassination and reassures that an investigation is opened and all the measures will be taken to find and punish the guilty," Barry wrote in French.
Woodman's son Matt is an employee of CTV News, based in Edmonton.
With files from The Associated Press and The Canadian Press