SHIMA, Japan — Justin Trudeau is leading a push at the Group of Seven summit that will likely broaden a previous agreement by the leaders to stop paying ransom for the release of kidnapped citizens, Canada’s point person at the meeting said Thursday.
Peter Boehm, Trudeau’s personal representative at the G7 summit, told reporters in Japan that there’s a growing sense around the table that citizens from these major economies can be in danger at any time.
They also believe the problem isn’t going away, he said.
“And by paying ransom you are just aiding and abetting the terrorists,” said Boehm, who’s also Canada’s deputy minister of international development.
Trudeau, he added, has been trying to encourage his G7 counterparts inside the fortified, seaside hotel in Shima to strengthen their position on the issue.
In 2013, the G7 leaders released a joint statement at the end of the summit saying they “unequivocally reject the payment of ransoms to terrorists” in line with a United Nations Security Council Resolution.
The rule, the document said, prevents the payment of ransoms, directly or indirectly, to terrorists designated under the UN al-Qaida sanctions regime.
Recent events have made the issue of particular concern for Trudeau and his government.
Last month, Canadian hostage John Ridsdel was beheaded by Abu Sayyaf militants in the Philippines who had demanded a large sum of cash in exchange for his release.
Another Canadian, Robert Hall, was kidnapped by the same group and is still being held hostage in the Asian country.
Hall and Ridsdel, along with two other tourists, were captured last September by militants.
After Ridsdel’s beheading, Trudeau said Canada would never pay ransom for the release of hostages.
His push on the ransom issue came a couple of days after he reportedly received an apology for Ridsdel’s death from Rodrigo Duterte, president-elect of the Philippines.
An online report by Rappler says Duterte told a news conference that he apologized to Trudeau on Tuesday when the Canadian prime minister called to congratulate him on his recent election victory.
Rappler also reported that Duterte said Trudeau brought up the “universal declaration of human rights.”
“I’m following it — I said that we are partners, may we remain partners for all time,” Duterte said, according to Rappler.
“Please accept my apologies for the incident that resulted in the killing of your national and we will try our very best to make sure nothing of the sort will happen again.”
A spokesman for Trudeau confirmed that the prime minister spoke with Duterte, but declined to offer details of the call.
Cameron Ahmad says the Canadian government won’t comment or release any information that could compromise ongoing efforts or endanger the safety of the remaining hostages.
Ahmad says the government’s first priority is the safety and security of its citizens.
“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,” Trudeau said earlier this month.
It remains to be seen how far the G7 position on paying ransoms could be expanded.
“It was good for Trudeau to drive this issue after a Canadian was recently murdered in the Philippines,” John Kirton, director of the G8 Research Group at University of Toronto, wrote in an email Thursday.
Kirton said he believes other G7 members are likely to agree to a change, particularly considering the 2013 joint statement already addressed the issue.
“So, we’ll have to see in the communique if they go beyond that this year,” he wrote.