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Canada ‘will not’ pay ransom, Trudeau says

KANANASKIS, Alta. – Justin Trudeau is taking an uncompromising stance against terrorist kidnappers, vowing that Canada will never pay ransom for the release of hostages.


April 27, 2016
By The Canadian Press

Moreover, he’s promising to press other countries to adopt the same unyielding approach.

The prime minister took the hard line Tuesday as he wrapped up a three-day cabinet retreat that was overshadowed by the death of Canadian John Ridsdel, who was beheaded Monday by Abu Sayyaf militants in the Philippines after seven months of captivity.

Amid speculation about whether the government might pay ransom to release two others still being held captive – Canadian citizen Robert Hall and Norwegian Kjartan Sekkingstad, whom a government official confirmed is a permanent resident of Canada – Trudeau said he wanted “to make one thing perfectly, crystal clear.”

“Canada does not and will not pay ransom to terrorists, directly or indirectly,” he told a news conference at the conclusion of the retreat in this luxury mountain resort.

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Paying ransom is “a significant source of funds for terrorist organizations that then allow them to continue to perpetrate deadly acts of violence against innocents around the world,” Trudeau said.

But more importantly, he said it would encourage terrorists to kidnap more Canadians.

“Paying ransom for Canadians would endanger the lives of every single one of the millions of Canadians who live work and travel around the world every single year.”

Ridsdel, 68, of Calgary, was one of four tourists – including Hall, Sekkingstad and a Filipino woman – who were kidnapped last Sept. 21 by Abu Sayyaf militants from a marina on southern Samal Island.

Asked whether and to what extent the Canadian government was involved in high-level negotiations to effect Ridsdel’s release, Trudeau said he’d “seen a number of those media reports,” which he then dismissed as “wrong” and “false.”

Some of Canada’s allies, notably France and Italy, have been willing to pay ransom for release of their citizens. Trudeau said he spoke Tuesday with British Prime Minister David Cameron , whose country adheres to the same no-ransom policy as Canada, and they agreed to press others to do the same.

“We need to make sure that terrorists understand that they cannot continue to fund their crimes and their violence from taking innocents hostage,” Trudeau said.

Abu Sayyaf – the name means “bearer of the sword” in Arabic – sprang up in the early 1990s as an offshoot of another, larger Islamic insurgent group. The federal government considers Abu Sayyaf to be a terrorist organization with links to al-Qaida.

Trudeau reiterated that Canada will work with the Philippines and other allies to “bring these terrorist criminals to justice.”

The issue of whether governments acquiesce to the demands of terror groups has long been murky, and is likely to remain an open question regardless of what Trudeau and his fellow leaders decide.

An al-Qaida letter obtained by The Associated Press three years ago suggests about $1 million was paid for the release of Canadian diplomat Robert Fowler in Niger in 2009. It was unclear who paid the ransom.

A leaked U.S. diplomatic cable from February 2010 lent credence to the notion Canada makes payments, quoting Washington’s then-ambassador to Mali as saying “it is difficult to level criticism on countries like Mali and Burkina Faso for facilitating negotiations when the countries that pay ransom, like Austria and Canada, are given a pass.”

The issue dominated the wrap-up of the retreat, which Trudeau said focused on global economic forces and taking stock of the government’s progress after six months in power.

News from © Canadian Press Enterprises Inc. 2016