A (True) Canadian Hostage Situation

Header credit: CBC

LET’S just pretend that you’re on a trip abroad. You’re on holidays but it doesn’t really matter why you’re there… You’re just enjoying all the sights, sounds and smells that come along with being on vacation; you’re so caught up in the new environment that you get lost among the strange crowds of people. Suddenly you’ve been ripped away from that peaceful journey and you’re instantly taken to a very scary, dark and stinky place. Your heart would be beating so hard it could almost burst out of your chest! You’ve got a blindfold on you so you can’t see anything. All you hear is people chatting in another language in the distance and that terrible sound of metal-on-metal; you hope to whatever God you may pray to that that sound isn’t coming for you. Your blindfold is taken off and everything comes to light. You’re starving and dehydrated—then you’re beaten and told you that you’re not going anywhere.

As a hostage how could you possibly know what’s going on back home to get you back home safely? Other than being put in front of a camera—hostages are tortured and starved the remainder of the time… I don’t really have much to say other than the pure speculation I have. When I read stories like the one’s I’m going to share with you below—my heart really gets tied up into a knot. I mean what could be worse than being taken hostage in another country… How scary is that. I guess, if you’re a journalist or you’re employed in a war-torn country for whatever reason, you don’t want to hear the word hostage — like ever. Many terrorist groups will take hostages just so that they can use them to finance their terrorist activities.

After the Canadian hostage John Risdell was executed by the Abu Sayyaf militant group, this article came out April 25th, 2016. Prime Minister Trudeau had this to say:

Canada condemns without reservation the brutality of the hostage takers in this unnecessary death… This was an act of cold-blooded murder and responsibility rests squarely with the terrorist group who took him hostage… On behalf of the Government of Canada and all Canadians, I would like to express my deepest condolences to the family and friends of Mr. Ridsdel… They have endured a terrible ordeal and this is a devastating moment for all of them.

Global Affairs Canada is the organization which handles hostage taking situations overseas. This is what they had to say:

The Government of Canada will not comment or release any information which may compromise ongoing efforts or endanger the safety of Canadian citizens,

This article was then posted on May 15th and now Robert Hall has only until June 13th before he’ll be executed.

In the wake of [John] Ridsdel’s slaying, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said adamantly that the government does not pay ransoms for hostages. Former government officials have said, though, that behind the scenes officials will consider almost anything in the effort to free captive Canadians. [Robert] Hall, his Filipino girlfriend Maritess Flor, Ridsdel and Sekkingstad were snatched last September at a marina near the city of Davao, before being spirited by boat 500 kilometres away to Jolo island. [Robert] Hall, a Calgary native, has sold insurance, run a welding shop and acted in independent films, but reportedly sold everything in 2014 to buy a 36-foot sailboat, the Renova, which he helmed across the Pacific. He appeared to have decided to settle in the Philippines, according to one published report, before being kidnapped.

What are these other tactics that the government uses instead of paying off these terrorists? Well when John Risdell and Robert Hall were originally kidnapped last September this report came out in the Toronto Sun. In the article Canadians are asked to let them be executed or “at least call the bluff of the militant group”—whatever that may mean…

The Philippines is asking Canada to let its people be executed. Or at least call the bluff of ISIS-linked terror thugs who’ve threatened to behead a pair of kidnapped Canadians next Monday.

So basically… Nothing was done. And then government told us nothing about what they didn’t do. Seems pretty cold-cut.

It was actually hard to find information online about how governments deal with hostage situations overseas, especially when terrorists are involved. For example: I found a lot about hostage situations that happen in government facilities within Canada, like say in a bank. But finding information regarding the tactics used to navigate what to do when terrorist group takes a Canadian hostage in another country—that wasn’t so easy. Then I found this article from April 27th that says that this lack of information I’m experiencing while I try to do my research online is key to how these situations are dealt with in the real world.

Ottawa has refused to comment on Canada’s efforts to free hostages, except to say it’s working with international allies, and to deny reports it was involved in negotiations with the group. However, Gar Pardy, a former Canadian diplomat, says secrecy is important, because often when details of talks start to leak, the hostage takers tend to increase the pressure on governments by changing the terms. “Quite often you will see increases in the demands that are made for the release of people and that’s what you’re trying to control and condition as much as anything. Pardy adds hostage situations are like an iceberg, most of the work being done is below the surface. Trudeau says Canada does not and will not pay ransom to terrorists, but that doesn’t mean the government isn’t working to secure Hall’s release.

If you become a hostage while you’re traveling, you are not going to survive. The mission to eliminate terrorism right now is much too great. To sacrifice freedom for a few lives sounds harsh but in reality it’s true. I wish that every hostage could just come home but that’s just the quick and juvenile solution that comes to mind to solve this really big systemic problem.logo

john-ridsdel
CBC

June 13th update: Robert Hall, believed killed in Philippines as ransom deadline passes
The Canadian government ‘will not and cannot pay ransoms for hostages to terrorist groups’, Justin Trudeau repeated on Monday in a statement confirming that Canadian hostage Robert Hall is believed to have been murdered by his Abu Sayyaf captors. Hall, 58, was apparently executed in the same mountainous jungle hideout on Jolo Island as fellow Calgarian, John Ridsdel, who was decapitated in late April.

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