Justin Trudeau denounces killing of Robert Hall in Philippines
Peace Tower flag lowered in memory of slain Canadian hostage as well as Orlando shooting victims
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau denounced the killing of Canadian Robert Hall by a militant group in the Philippines as well as the mass shooting that saw dozens killed at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Fla., on Sunday as "vicious acts of hatred and violence."
The prime minister praised Hall's family for their "strength of character in their resilience" in the face of what he described as a "terrible situation."
"This is a grievous loss for them, and their country mourns with them," Trudeau said in a brief press conference in the foyer of the House of Commons Monday.
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Sources close to the situation in Jolo, the island where the al-Qaeda-linked group is based, and within Philippine security confirmed Hall's death early Monday to CBC News.
President Benigno Aquino released a statement early Tuesday in the Philippines regarding Hall's killing.
"We strongly condemn the brutal and senseless murder of Mr. Robert Hall, a Canadian national, after being held captive by the Abu Sayyaf group in Sulu for the past nine months," Aquino said.
Hall is the second Canadian to die at the hands of the extremist group in recent months after John Ridsdel was beheaded in April. Ridsdel and Hall were abducted last September from a seaside resort, along with Norwegian Kjartan Sekkingstad and Marites Flor, a Filipina national.
Trudeau said he had spoken with Aquino, who offered his condolences for Hall's murder.
"We are more committed than ever to working with the government of the Philippines and international partners to pursue those responsible for these heinous acts and bring them to justice, however long it takes."
Trudeau also talked about Sunday's shooting at a gay nightclub that left 49 club-goers and the shooter dead.
"The appalling attack on the LGBTQ2 community this weekend in Orlando and this news today serve as devastating reminders for all of us that vicious acts of hatred and violence cannot be tolerated in any form," Trudeau said in the foyer of the House of Commons Monday.
"Today, we have lowered the flag on the Peace Tower in solidarity with our friends and family in Orlando," the prime minister said, in his first public remarks on the mass shooting.
"It is with great sadness that the flag flies lowered for yet another sad event as well," he said, in reference to Hall's reported death.
Interim Conservative leader Rona Ambrose, in a written statement, expressed her condolences to Hall's family.
"The threat of radical and barbaric acts of terrorism remains very real. Canada is not immune to the danger presented by global terror networks. We must stand in solidarity not just with the victims but with our allies around the world as we work together to disrupt and destroy these terrorist organizations."
"We hope you may find comfort in the support of your community and all Canadians in this terrible time," Ambrose said in the statement.
No ransom policy
Trudeau reiterated the Canadian government's policy not to pay ransom to hostage takers.
"We will not turn the maple leaf worn with pride by over 3 million Canadians abroad into targets," Trudeau said.
"Terrorism is a scourge on the world. Too many families have endured the unspeakable grief the Hall family is feeling today because of these senseless acts of hatred," Trudeau said. "On behalf of them and of all Canadians, we mourn their loss and reassert our resolve."
Foreign Affairs Minister Stéphane Dion expressed solidarity with Hall's family and called his death "an awful crime" that would strengthen the resolve of the Canadian government to fight terrorism.
Dion, who was in Montreal for an economic forum, defended the government's policy not to pay ransom to hostage takers.
"When you pay ransom, you give money to these terrorist groups and they will have more resources to continue to perpetrate crimes. So we should not use (...) Canadians' taxpayers' money for such a purpose that is so wrong," Dion said.
"It's very, very difficult but the policy is the right one."
Citing security concerns, Dion declined to comment on Canada's involvement with the government of the Philippines and international allies.
"Other hostages are at stake," he said.
According to CBC News correspondent Sasa Petricic, Canada did not negotiate with the group, but lent assistance to the Philippine military, which has carried out operations against the group in recent weeks.
"We are told by the Philippine military that, in fact, it had at least a couple of the Canadian military who were assisting — not on the ground, not on the front lines — but assisting as consultants with the Philippine government," Petricic said from Manila.
With files from CBC's Sasa Petricic