One day after a Canadian being held hostage in the Philippines was beheaded, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau stressed that Canada will not pay ransom to terrorists — a message he says he will impress upon other world leaders.
John Ridsdel, a former mining executive and journalist who had been held hostage by members of ISIS-affiliate Abu Sayyaf alongside another Canadian, a Norwegian, and a Filipina woman since September, was killed on Monday after the deadline for his $8.1 million ransom expired.
Ridsdel's head was discovered in a plastic bag that had been dumped by motorcycle-riding militants in a town about 950 kilometers south of Manila, according to the Associated Press.
Since then, the government has faced questions about its protocols around paying ransoms for Canadians taken hostage.
"I do ... want to make one thing perfectly, crystal clear: Canada does not and will not pay ransom to terrorists, directly or indirectly," Trudeau said Tuesday while on a political retreat in Alberta.
"There are very direct and concrete reasons for this," Trudeau added. "First of all, obviously this is a significant source of funds for terrorist organizations that then allows them to continue to perpetuate deadly acts of violence against innocents around the world.
"But more importantly, paying ransom, for Canadians, would endanger the lives of every single one of the millions of Canadians who live, work and travel around the globe every single year," he said.
Trudeau said he talked to UK Prime Minister David Cameron, who expressed his sympathy for the death of Ridsdel, who was also a British citizen. Trudeau also said the two talked about their shared position of not paying ransoms, and said it was something they would be talking about with other leaders as they grapple with terrorism.
Asked by a journalist about reports that the government was involved at the highest levels in negotiations or trying to connect with the terrorists, Trudeau responded that he had seen the claims. "Let me just say that they are wrong and they are false."
Bob Rae, the former interim leader of the Liberal Party and a friend of Ridsdel, told CTV's Power Play show that he had been working with Ridsdel's family to get him released, and the government "right up to the Prime Minister of Canada," was doing the same.
"Up until the last minute, the last few hours, a lot of efforts were being made to connect, to communicate," Rae said. "Obviously there was talk of money involved, not by the Government of Canada or the Government of Norway, but certainly by the families attempting to do what they could," he added.
But Rae did say that the Canadian government has been "very directly involved in trying to help the family, and help the family come to terms with the challenge that's involved in trying to negotiate with these people, who start out with absolutely outlandish demands for money, in the tens of millions of dollars."
He also described the government's "principled" position, that it will not directly involve itself in ransom negotiations.
Rae added that there are still "a lot of conflicting reports about exactly what happened," but that Ridsdel showed "an enormous amount of courage and dignity and honesty throughout the process."
Government officials have been warning that the "rampant" speculation about how the incident has unfolded is off base and "unhelpful."
The government, officially, is not commenting, citing the safety of the Canadian still held captive by Abu Sayyaf.
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