B.C. 'adventure' traveller detained in Syria, missing for more than one month
Government has been warning Canadians to avoid travelling to Syria since 2011
A British Columbia man who went to Syria seeking adventure has been detained in the war-ravaged country, and Canada's foreign ministry says there is little it can do to help him.
The mother of the man from Nanaimo, B.C., said he has not been in touch for more than a month and is pleading for help getting him home.
Andrea Leclair told The Canadian Press that her 44-year-old son Kristian Lee Baxter messaged her daily because she was worried after he arrived in Syria on Nov. 26, but he went silent after his last message on Dec. 1.
Asked about Baxter, Global Affairs Canada confirmed it is aware of a Canadian who has been detained in Syria.
But the department offered no other details and would not confirm his identity, citing the Privacy Act.
Travel warning since 2011
The government has been warning Canadians to avoid travelling to Syria since 2011 after the outbreak of a civil war that has attracted foreign powers and spawned a multitude of militias, including a new Islamist terror group, while leaving an estimated 500,000 people dead.
Canada severed diplomatic relations with Syria in 2012, expelling its diplomats and shuttering its embassy.
"Consular services are being provided to the family and to the individual, to the limited extent possible. Given the security situation on the ground, the Government of Canada's ability to provide consular assistance in any part of Syria is extremely limited," said Global Affairs spokesman Stefano Maron.
I just want him home- Andrea Leclair, mother of Kristian Lee Baxter
The Global Affairs travel advisory warns all Canadians to avoid travelling to the country because of the ongoing war.
"Syria is not safe for personal travel," says the department's online advisory. "Attempting any form of travel in this very hazardous security environment would place you at grave risk. Criminals, terrorists and armed groups target foreigners for terrorist attacks, assassination and kidnapping for ransom or political gain."
The advisory says the country is plagued by fighting that involves small arms, tanks, artillery, aircraft fire and chemical weapons.
A 'world traveller and adventurer'
During their final video chat, Leclair said Baxter introduced her to people he was visiting at a village near the country's border with Lebanon.
"Kristian is a world traveller, he's been all over the place, he's an adventurer," Leclair said.
"He introduced me to all these people, he says, 'They're such nice people, everywhere I go they're feeding me and giving me tea and coffee.' He was just having a really nice time."
Leclair said she has been frustrated by the lack of information she has been able to get about Baxter. Global Affairs Canada initially told her it could do nothing because there is no functioning Canadian embassy in Syria, then said it might be able to work through the Romanian embassy, she said.
Baxter was supposed to be home Dec. 13 and his travel visa to Syria expired on Dec. 12 or 13, she said.
"It's so complicated because we just don't know anything," Leclair said. "I just want him home."