Robert Hall was a father, a grandfather and just an ordinary Calgarian who sold everything he owned to sail halfway around the world with his girlfriend.
Hall never got that chance. He and fellow Canadian John Ridsdel were kidnapped in the middle of the night by extremists in the Philippines. The pair was held captive for months then ruthlessly murdered.
On the two-year anniversary of the dark day their loved one was captured by terrorists, Hall’s grieving family is hoping to galvanize Canadians to demand more from the federal government. They insist there was nothing the government did in terms of any kind of rescue mission to save the two innocent men before they were both beheaded.
Robert Hall’s cousin Steve Bibby said he’s disgusted with the federal government’s handling of this case.
“If it was me in that position and I knew my end was coming, I would have taken the option of seeing a maple leaf coming through the jungle and dying in crossfire than seeing nothing — absolutely nothing,” Bibby said.
Hall’s sister, Bonice Thomas, has been lobbying the government to review its hostage policy. It states the government refuses to pay ransoms or negotiate with terrorists. The family agrees with that but says the politicians could have sent in special forces from the Canadian Military to rescue these men.
“Even if a rescue attempt were made and my brother didn’t survive I would be calmer in my heart knowing my country cared about him as much as he cared about it,” Thomas said.
“He died thinking Canadian people didn’t care about him.”
They’ve organized petitions and sent hundreds of thousands of letters to politicians on all levels of government and said they’ve received only vague responses.
“I’m still baffled by lack of political will and throwing of the dice with two Canadian lives is abhorrent, shameful and unforgivable,” Thomas said.
And they fear it will happen again to another Canadian family.
“Both John and Bobby were completely abandoned and they paid the ultimate price,” Bibby said.
“This isn’t over.”
A spokesperson from the Global Affairs department responded to our requests for comment. Adam Austen released the following statement.
“Canada expresses its deepest condolences for the tragedy suffered by the families of John Ridsdel and Robert Hall. Their experience is a horrible and unimaginable ordeal for families to endure and we condemn without reservation the brutality of the hostage takers responsible for these heinous acts.
Whenever a tragedy like this occurs, we do our utmost to provide support to their family and engage with international partners to ensure that consular services are provided. In all such cases, the Global Affairs Canada officials responsible for family support strive to work as closely as they can with affected families to assist them. This support remains an essential part of our response.
The Royal Canadian Mounted Police and Global Affairs Canada provide advice and support to hostage families over the course of a case, mindful of Canadian law and Canada’s international legal obligations. We know there is a lot to be done to improve the flow of information to families, and we’re committed to making every effort to share as much information as possible.
In order to ensure that this work is carried out the most appropriate manner, the Government is always considering how hostage cases are managed, drawing on past lessons to seek to improve the support that is provided to families. Recent efforts have included interviews with family members who received direct support from officials during a case, as well as consultations with close international partners and other experts on best practices in supporting hostage families. We are actively applying these lessons learned.”