The family of a former Canadian MP detained in Israel is calling on Ottawa to help secure his release.

Jim Manly, a former NDP MP from Vancouver Island, was one of about 30 activists on board the Gaza-bound ship Estelle, which was intercepted by Israeli authorities over the weekend.

The 79-year-old’s family issued a statement early Monday urging Prime Minister Stephen Harper to contact authorities in Israel and speak up in Manly’s defence.

“If Canada and Israel are the close allies that the Prime Minister has said they are, then he should be able to secure my father release with one quick phone call,” the statement read.

Estelle set sail from a port in Naples, Italy on Oct. 7 with individuals from about 30 countries. A spokesperson says the activists are involved with a project called “Gaza’s Ark,” which aims to build a boat in the Hamas-owned strip and challenge the Israeli blockade of the area.

The activists were transporting school, medical and building supplies, as well as an anchor for the ship they hope to build, spokesperson David Heap told CTV’s Canada AM Monday.

That plan was derailed Sunday when six Israeli naval vessels stopped Estelle, which was about 30 nautical miles from Gaza. Masked soldiers boarded the ship and ordered it to an Israeli port.

Manly’s son Paul says his father has been detained by the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) and charged with immigration offences. Paul has said that his father is in good health, but the family remains concerned about his wellbeing and whether he’ll have access to the medicine he takes each day.

Paul Manly reiterated the family’s ongoing appeal to Ottawa in an interview with CTV British Columbia.

“It would be nice to hear some politicians speak out in support of a retired member of parliament who stuck his neck out to help people in less fortunate parts of the world,” he said Sunday.

Canada’s Foreign Affairs department has advised Canadians to avoid all travel to the Gaza strip and the surrounding region. In particular, citizens are urged against trying to break Israel’s naval blockade.

Rick Roth, press secretary for Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird, said Ottawa has “strongly urged” those wishing to deliver humanitarian goods to Gaza to do so through official channels.

“Unauthorized efforts to deliver aid are provocative and, ultimately, unhelpful to the people of Gaza,” Roth said in a statement issued to CTV News Monday.

“Canada recognizes Israel’s legitimate security concerns and its right to protect itself and its residents from attacks by Hamas and other terrorist groups, including by preventing the smuggling of weapons.”

The travel advisory for the Gaza Strip makes reference to Estelle, noting that “consular officials may not be able to provide consular assistance to Canadians who choose to participate in the flotilla.”

Meanwhile, Israeli officials have deported some of Manly’s fellow activists.

David Heap, a spokesperson for the Gaza’s Ark project, said Monday that at least nine activists have been deported thus far: one from Italy, three from Spain and five from Greece.

However, according to Heap, most of the activists on board Estelle remain in prison.

“The Israelis say the conditions for a speedy release would be that they have to sign a document admitting that they entered Israel illegally,” Heap told CTV’s Canada AM on Monday.

He added that the remaining activists refuse to sign the confession.

Heap, a Canadian who was on board a Gaza-bound ship last year, said the Gaza’s Ark project will continue each year until Israel ends its blockade of the region.

“Is it worth it to stand in solidarity with people who are denied their rights? Always. Always and without exception,” he said in an interview from Gaza.

Israel imposed the air, land and sea blockade in 2007 after Hamas seized control of Gaza.

With a report from CTV British Columbia’s Lisa Rossington