Politics

Freeland urges Canadians to note travel warnings before heading to troublespots abroad

Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland is reminding Canadians to take careful note of the government's travel advisories after an adventure seeker was released from more than seven months' detention in Syria.

Foreign affairs minister calls for caution after B.C. man is released from detention in Syria

Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland is urging Canadians to pay attention to travel advisories before travelling to international troublespots. (Credit: Eirc Baradat/AFP/Getty Images)

Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland is reminding Canadians to take careful note of the government's travel advisories after an adventure seeker was released from more than seven months' detention in Syria.

Kristian Lee Baxter of Nanaimo, B.C., ventured to Syria late last year — despite Global Affairs Canada's travel advisory warning against all travel to the war-ravaged country that has been in place since 2011 — and was detained for carrying a metal detector packed in his luggage that was prohibited in the country.

During an event in Calgary Friday, Freeland welcomed Baxter's release and thanked Canadian consular officials and Lebanon's government for their efforts in securing his freedom.

But she warned that not all cases have positive outcome.

"I think this is also a case that should remind us all to exercise a high degree of caution when travelling to parts of the world," she said. "There's been a happy outcome here. Let's not allow this to cause us not to be careful."

Kristian Lee Baxter, who was detained in Syria for seven months, reacts during a news conference in Beirut Friday following his release. (Mohamed Azakir/Reuters)

Baxter's release comes just one day after Canada issued a heightened travel advisory to Hong Kong which urges Canadians to exercise a "high degree of caution."

Freeland said the travel advisories are compiled very carefully, and said Canadians should consider them when making travel plans.

"I think it is common sense for Canadians to take great care," she said. 

Freeland noted that 300,000 Canadians live in Hong Kong, and that the government is focused on ensuring their safety.

She issued a similar call for Canadians to heed travel advisories in January amid a spate of high-profile cases of the killing, kidnapping and detention of Canadians abroad.

Hong Kong protests

People have been protesting in Hong Kong since June 9 over proposed extradition legislation that could have sent suspects to mainland China, where they could face torture or unfair trials.

While Kristian Lee Baxter of Nanaimo, B.C., was released after being detained in Syria, Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland warned Canadians travelling abroad to "exercise a high degree of caution" as it might not always be a positive outcome. 0:44

The legislation has since been suspended, but protests have continued with calls for sweeping democratic reforms in the former British colony and investigations into alleged abuse of force by police.

Freeland said Canadian officials continue to press China for the release of two Canadians detained in that country over allegations they conspired to steal state secrets.

Former diplomat Michael Kovrig and businessman Michael Spavor were detained after Canada arrested Meng Wanzhou, Huawei's chief financial officer, at the request of U.S. authorities who want to try her on fraud charges.

The Canadian government has maintained the two Canadians' arrests were "arbitrary."

"They are two brave Canadians who are facing a difficult situation through no fault of their own, and they are conducting themselves with incredible grace and tenacity," Freeland said. "They're showing real Canadian grit."

Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland says Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig are "showing real Canadian grit" while being detained in China without charge since December 2018. 0:56

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