Quebec woman and Italian friend missing in Burkina Faso
Published Saturday, January 5, 2019 12:18PM EST Last Updated Saturday, January 5, 2019 9:21PM EST
A 34-year-old Quebec woman and her 30-year-old Italian friend have gone missing while they were travelling together in West Africa, according to her family.
In a Facebook group, the family of Edith Blais, said she and her friend Luca Tacchetto were driving through Burkina Faso when they disappeared. They were last heard from on Dec. 15 when Blais posted photos from their trip to Facebook.
“We’re really worried because… the communications stopped abruptly and every kind of activity, every trace just completely vanished,” Blais’ sister, Melanie Blais, told CTV News.
Blais, who is from Sherbrooke, Que., met Tacchetto, a 30-year-old architect, in Canada two years ago, the family said.
The travellers were on their way to the capital Ouagadougou from Bobo-Dioulasso, the country’s second largest city, when communications between them and their families “stopped abruptly.” They were on their way to neighbouring Togo to work on a humanitarian project, the Facebook group said.
“They weren’t worried about anything. They were having a really happy trip. She has been dreaming about travelling to Africa for all of her life,” Melanie Blais said.
The pair was supposed to stay in the capital for four or five days and possibly sell their car, according to Blais’ family.
In an update posted to the Facebook group late Friday, the family said Blais and Tacchetto never crossed the border or applied for a visa from Burkina Faso to Togo or Ghana.
Guy Pardy, a former Canadian diplomat and former director general of consular affairs, cautions travellers against taking such trips in the troubled region.
“Anybody who would go there with the idea that this is a place you can get in your car and drive across (the) country and expect, you know, as if you’re going to Toronto -- I mean, I find it very troubling but it happens,” he said.
A spokesperson for Global Affairs Canada confirmed they’re aware that a Canadian citizen is reported missing in Burkina Faso.
“Canadian consular officials in Burkina Faso are in contact with local authorities to gather additional information,” spokesperson Guillaume Berube said in an emailed statement to CTVNews.ca on Saturday.
Berube added that consular assistance is being provided to the family in Canada.
The Canadian government warns travellers to avoid all “non-essential travel” to Burkina Faso, particularly the northern area and its borders with Mali, Niger, Benin and Togo because of the threat of terrorism, banditry, and kidnapping.
Blais’ disappearance comes as a B.C. man is being detained in Syria. Kristian Baxter, a 44-year-old from Nanaimo, B.C. who visited Syria to visit his girlfriend’s brother-in-law, has been detained for more than a month over issues with a metal detector in his luggage, according to his mother.
Global Affairs said the agency is aware of a Canadian detained in Syria, but that there’s little the Canadian government can do to help him. Canada cut off diplomatic relations with Syria in 2012.
Due to ongoing conflict, Global Affairs advises Canadians to avoid travel to Syria.
Peter MacKay, who served as Canada’s Minister of Foreign Affairs between 2006 and 2007, says that such warnings “are not just cautionary” or “a mild suggestion.”
“They are there to remind Canadians to avoid going to these places where you will be, to a large degree, on your own if you’re captured,” he told CTV News.