Officially, the Canadian government doesn’t pay ransom for the release of its citizens kidnapped abroad. But over the years, several Canadians have been released following a ransom payment – though not necessarily from the government.
The murder of Calgary resident John Ridsdel, who was held captive for six months in the Philippines, is raising questions about whether Canada should consider paying ransom as a course of policy.
“Canada does not and will not pay ransom to terrorists, directly or indirectly,” said Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at a press conference Tuesday afternoon.
Here’s a look at some recent cases of Canadian hostages that have been in the news over the past decade, and how they were eventually freed – or not.
The Canadian journalist and an Australian photographer were captured in Somalia in August 2008 after trying to visit a Somalian refugee camp. The two were held for 15 months and eventually released following a reported $600,000 U.S. ransom payment, according to the Globe and Mail. Both families had attempted to raise the money for ransom, and Lindhout’s father even took out a second mortgage on his house, but eventually the funding was guaranteed by an Australian businessman. The money was delivered by a private security firm hired by the families.
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The two Canadian diplomats were kidnapped in Niger in late 2008 and were held for about four months in western Africa.
They were eventually released. It later emerged that a ransom had been paid to free them, according to a report by the Associated Press, though the Canadian government denied paying anything. It was unclear who paid. The ransom was about $1.1 million for the two diplomats.
Mellissa Fung, a CBC journalist, was captured in Afghanistan in October 2008. She was held for 28 days, mostly in a small cave underground.
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She said in a CBC report that she was released when Afghan authorities arrested a family member of one of her captors. They made a trade: Fung for the captor’s mother.
Colin Rutherford was kidnapped while vacationing in Afghanistan in 2010, and was held for over five years. He was released in January 2016.
It’s unclear how exactly the release was obtained, though the government of Qatar was involved in the negotiations. Qatar’s ambassador to Canada denied that a ransom had been paid, according to a report in the National Post.
Beverly Giesbrecht was abducted in Pakistan in 2009. She was a filmmaker and blogger from B.C. who had converted to Islam and reported on militant Islam. She was captured by the Taliban while working on a film. A ransom video later surfaced in 2009, but she was reported dead in late 2010.