In The Media

Sask hostage facing Monday execution deadline

by Jason Warick (feat. Colin Robertson)

Montreal Gazette
April 22, 2016

Two men with Saskatchewan roots are at the centre of a hostage crisis in the Philippines.

One of the four hostages facing Monday’s execution deadline, John Ridsdel, grew up in Yorkton and worked for a period in Regina. Canada’s ambassador to the Philippines, Melfort native Neil Reeder, is seeking his release.

Reeder and other officials are likely working around the clock through formal and informal channels to evaluate all options, said Colin Robertson, a retired Canadian diplomat and former colleague of Reeder.

“He’s a good guy, an experienced hand,” Robertson said of Reeder, who represented Canada in far-flung postings including Costa Rica, Morocco and Brunei before he was named Philippines ambassador in 2013.

“The ultimate concern is the lives of these hostages.”

The four were taken hostage by armed gunmen near a resort several months ago in the southern Philippines, one of the world’s most volatile, dangerous regions. In a video posted online last week, hostage takers vowed to execute one of them on Monday if the ransom of 300 million pesos ($8 million CND) was not paid.

As of Friday evening, there had been no change in their status.

Robertson, a fellow at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute and executive fellow at the University of Calgary’s School of Public Policy, said Reeder and the other embassy staff are probably in close contact with their Filipino counterparts. Robertson is not involved in Ridsdel’s case, but outlined the likely scenarios facing everyone involved.

Robertson, who lived for several years near Moosomin and represented Canada in various countries and the United Nations, said the U.S. government and military are likely being consulted as well due to their global reach, particularly with a strong ally such as the Philippines.

The safety of the hostages is paramount, but there are multiple other considerations, Robertson said. How do the affected families feel? Should there be a rescue mission? Should the ransom be paid? How will any actions affect relations between countries? What message will any action send to future kidnappers?

Robertson said Canada has made it clear publicly that it doesn’t pay ransoms. However, there can be distinctions between official statements and what’s happening behind the scenes, he said.

“There may be informal channels,” Robertson said. “It’s a delicate balancing act.”

An online campaign started by a Saskatoon man, Don Kossick, urges the Canadian government to do everything possible to secure the hostages’ release. Reeder did not respond to an email interview request on Friday.

According to reports, the other three hostages are fellow Canadian Robert Hall, Filipino Marites Flor and Norwegian Kjartan Sekkingstad.


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