Canadians detained in Ethiopia granted bail: Alberta MP

Click to play video: 'Canadian detainees in Ethiopia granted bail' Canadian detainees in Ethiopia granted bail
WATCH: A group of volunteers and staff with the charity Canadian Humanitarian has now been granted bail after being detained in Ethiopia over allegations they were practicing medicine without permission and dispensing expired drugs. Liam Nixon reports on when they could be released – Mar 3, 2020

Thirteen Canadians who are being detained in Ethiopia have been granted bail, according to Alberta MP Heather McPherson.

McPherson, MP for Edmonton-Strathcona and the NDP’s international development critic, said she has been keeping a very close eye on the situation and her first priority is the safety of the detainees.

“We want to see these Canadians repatriated to Canada as soon as we can but we are trusting to our consular services. I know that the minister and the parliamentary secretary have been involved,” she said Tuesday afternoon.

“They have received bail but there is still a process to go through. They are still incarcerated and as far as I know, there is some things that will need to be done.”

READ MORE: 13 Canadian citizens detained in Ethiopia

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McPherson said she believes the federal government is handling the situation really well and hopes for a quick return to Canada for the detainees.

“The consular services have been outstanding. They are on the ground. They will be staying with the Canadians and supporting them as they go through these next steps and go through this judicial system,” she said.

Click to play video: '13 Canadian charity workers detained in Ethiopia' 13 Canadian charity workers detained in Ethiopia
13 Canadian charity workers detained in Ethiopia – Mar 1, 2020

“The minister has been involved, the parliamentary secretary has been involved. They have kept the families and members of Parliament who have constituents involved informed, and that’s great. So we will continue to expect that level of support for these Canadians and we hope to have an expedited return to Canada as soon as we possibly can.”

A spokesperson with Alberta-based NGO Canadian Humanitarian said Saturday that three of its staff members, along with 10 volunteers were detained at a police station in Gondar, more than 600 kilometres north of Addis Ababa.

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Spokesperson Justin Steed said originally 18 Canadians were detained, but five were released last Friday.

Two Ethiopian staff members are also being detained, Steed said.

Steed said Ethiopian police were investigating allegations the group was handing out expired medication. Steed said the group is “vigorously defending” its actions.

“While we cannot comment on the specifics of the expiry of the medication, we can with confidence say that all medicine and care offered by our team was safe,” read a statement posted on Canadian Humanitarian’s website.

The NGO also confirmed Tuesday that bail was posted for the entire group of detainees.

“Canadian Humanitarian can confirm that documentation is currently being processed that will hopefully see the detainees released on bail tomorrow,” the organization said in an update on its website Tuesday afternoon.

“At that point they will be free to move within the country, but it is uncertain when Ethiopian authorities will allow their return to Canada.”

Canadian Humanitarian said one of its representatives and consular officers have been permitted brief access to the prison where the group is being detained. The detainees have received “fair and humanitarian treatment,” the statement read.

Canadian Humanitarian said Ethiopian authorities have suggested the detainees will need to stay in Ethiopia while an investigation is conducted.

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“The organization will be pursuing all avenues to see its employees and volunteers return home as soon as possible.”

READ MORE: Can aid workers hand out expired medication? Doctors say it’s ‘not entirely unusual’

McPherson is the former executive director of the Alberta Council for Global Cooperation and has previously worked with Canadian Humanitarian. She said the organization has a very well respected reputation.

“I did travel to Ethiopia with Canadian Humanitarian. We visited a number of different projects throughout the country, so not the exact same projects that they would be working on right now,” she explained.

“I can tell you that it’s a wonderful organization. I’ve represented them through the Alberta Council for Global Cooperation for a number of years. From my experience, they are an organization that does great work and it is pretty devastating for me to hear that this is something that they’re going through at the moment.”

Click to play video: 'Charges against Canadian humanitarian group detained in Ethiopia ‘highly unusual:’ pharmacology expert' Charges against Canadian humanitarian group detained in Ethiopia ‘highly unusual:’ pharmacology expert
Charges against Canadian humanitarian group detained in Ethiopia ‘highly unusual:’ pharmacology expert – Mar 3, 2020

Global Affairs Canada said in a statement Tuesday it is aware that Canadian citizens are detained in Ethiopia. Foreign Affairs Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne spoke with his Ethiopian counterpart Gedu Andargachew about the detained humanitarian workers, the statement said.

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The federal government continues to be “fully engaged” in the matter and officials are in contact with local authorities to gather further information, according to Global Affairs Canada.

Consular officials are providing consular services to the Canadian citizens and their families.

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