As It Happens

Sister of Robert Hall, killed Canadian hostage, says government did little to save him

Bonice Thomas is the sister of Robert Hall, executed this summer by Philippines terrorist group Abu Sayyaf. Thomas wants to know why the Canadian government didn't do more to prevent her brother's death, despite their "no ransom" policy for terrorists.
Robert Hall, pictured before his death in June 2016. Hall was executed by Abu Sayyaf, after a deadline for ransom was not met. He was kidnapped in September 2015 with three others, at a quiet marina in the Philippines. (PROVIDED)
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A year after a group of hostages was kidnapped in the Philippines, the family of Robert Hall, one of the two Canadians later executed, is questioning whether the Canadian government did everything it could to save him. 

The group was taken from a luxury marina in the Philippines, by IS-supported terrorist group Abu Sayyaf in September 2015. Two of those hostages were freed, including the last remaining hostage from Norway, Kjartan Sekkingstad, who was released this week

But the two Canadian hostages were brutally executed. John Ridsdel was beheaded in April. Robert Hall met the same fate in June.

The status of Canadian Robert Hall (left), seen in a video uploaded to YouTube, is unknown. John Ridsdel (middle) was executed by Abu Sayyaf in late April. (Site Intelligence Group/YouTube)

Their families have stayed silent since their deaths. But this week, Bonice Thomas, Robert Hall's sister, wrote a Facebook post criticizing the Canadian government for not doing more to stop her brother's death.

In an interview with As It Happens host Carol Off, Thomas says she understands the Canadian government's policy of not paying ransom to terrorists. But she says that shouldn't be the end of the conversation.

Bonice Thomas is Robert Hall's sister. Hall was executed by Abu Sayyaf in June 2016. (Submitted)

"I just think we need to have something other than a platitude of 'We won't pay ransom.' We need policy. We need structure to what we will do in a case like this. I strongly believe this is not a lack of ability or means. This is a lack of political will," she says.

She says if the government did do anything behind the scenes to help Hall's case, she didn't hear about it.

"To tell you the truth, I don't know what they did because we weren't informed of a lot of their movements or strategies or anything like that. But I know we had a funeral. So they didn't do all they could've done."

Robert Hall, pictured on his boat. He was an avid traveller, and was living in the Philippines when he was kidnapped by Abu Sayyaf. (PROVIDED )

After Ridsdel's death, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called it an "act of cold-blooded murder." He vowed to work with the Philippines government to "pursue those responsible for this heinous act and bring them to justice."

Thomas says she would have liked to see military intervention, specifically mentioning the Joint Task Force 2 special operations.

"It's a counter-terrorism organization that specializes in hostage rescue. It would've been much more palatable that my brother was killed in a rescue attempt, rather than the gruesome way he was murdered."

Thomas also criticizes former Liberal leader Bob Rae for speaking publicly after Ridsdel's death. Rae was working behind the scenes with Ridsdel's family to try to secure his release. But Thomas says speaking out after his death, while her brother's life hung in the balance, was inappropriate.

"Abu Sayyaf wanted to speak to our government, and our government wasn't speaking. But then an ex-official from our government goes public.  It was a little reckless. It could've easily enraged [Abu Sayyaf]. And it quite probably endangered my brother's life."

For more on this story, listen to our full interview with Bonice Thomas.

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