RCMP has given ‘comfort letters’ to companies which help free Canadian hostages

The RCMP headquarters building is shown in Ottawa on Wednesday, October, 5, 2011. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Fred Chartrand

A senior RCMP official says the national police force has sometimes assured private companies they won’t be prosecuted for dealing with hostage-takers on behalf of desperate Canadian families.

James Malizia, the RCMP assistant commissioner for national security, tells a Senate committee today that the primary focus for the force is the safe release of the hostages.

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As a result, the Mounties have provided so-called “comfort letters” to private agencies assisting families, saying they will not be criminally investigated for negotiating with terrorists or other criminals.

The Canadian government has a long-standing policy against paying ransoms in hostage-takings.

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David Drake, a director general at Global Affairs Canada, says he is unaware of a case in which the federal government has either directly or indirectly paid a ransom.

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He says the government is firm in its resolve to deny terrorists the resources they need to conduct attacks against Canada, its allies and partners.

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