Australia urged not to scale back search for Canadian hiker
Prabhdeep Srawn was last seen May 13
Canada's minister of state for consular affairs says she has asked Australian police to not scale back the search for a Canadian hiker who has been missing for more than two weeks, but opposition parties say it's too little, too late.
Diane Ablonczy said she has spoken with Australia's high commissioner to Canada and requested that the search for Prabhdeep Srawn not be reduced at this time.
"Canada has been actively working with Australian authorities to discuss the search mission and to convey the family's concerns," Ablonczy said.
"Our engagement at all levels will continue."
The 25-year-old from Hamilton, Ont., went missing in Kosciuszko National Park in New South Wales. Srawn was a Canadian Forces reservist from 2005 to 2011, belonging to the 31 Service Battalion's Hamilton Company. His immediate family moved to Brampton in 2012 after he left for Australia.
Srawn was last seen May 13 when he drove to a village in the park where he intended to go for a bushwalk. A search operation began on May 20 when it was discovered the Canadian military reservist was missing.
Government too slow to react, family says
Srawn's family has criticized Australian authorities and the Canadian government for not making the search a priority.
Srawn's cousin, Ruby Singh-Sahota, told CBC News that Canadian officials at Foreign Affairs and International Trade have been little help to the family.
"The information we get is a lot quicker than they do," she said. "It's not too useful."
The ministry was initially slow to release any information on the search for Srawn, citing "privacy concerns." But the family said they aren't worried about privacy — they just want to find him. "The family has no concern of privacy in this matter," Singh-Sahota said.
Helene Laverdiere, the NDP critic for consular affairs, told the House of Commons during question period Tuesday that the government was doing "too little, too late," to find Srawn.
"When his family reached out for help, the government ignored them," Laverdiere said. "Mr. Srawn proudly served our country. Now our country should be doing more for him. Why won't the Conservatives listen to the concerns of his family?"
Srawn's cousin, Tej Sahota, tweeted late Monday that the family is offering a $15,000 reward if Srawn is found safe.
Scaling back the search
Police in New South Wales announced Monday that they would scale back the search — even as Srawn's family and friends continued to plead for an expanded one.
Authorities in New South Wales said they decided to scale down the operation after consulting medical experts and examining the conditions and weather forecasts for the area.
Australian police told CBC News that the last full day of searching was dampened by bad weather. It is winter in Australia, so it is wet, rainy and foggy.
The search will resume at 7 a.m. Australian time, police said. It is being scaled back from 15 people to eight people. More bad weather is in the forecast, so the use of a helicopter will depend on the weather.
With files from Lily Boisson and The Canadian Press