Thirteen Canadians being detained in Ethiopia, including a dentist from Olds, have been granted bail.
Dr. Jared Ord was one of the volunteers detained while taking part in a two-week expedition with Canadian Humanitarian, a Medicine Hat-based non-profit agency that brings health and dental services to developing countries.
Red Deer orthodontist Dr. Ivan Hucal and dental assistant Melanie Bott were also scheduled to go on the mission. It’s not known if they are among those being held.
It was the second trip for the two, who were part of a 2018 Canadian Humanitarian trip to Ethiopia.
Fifteen medical volunteers, general volunteers and staff were taken into custody Sunday on allegations that they were practising medicine without permission and had dispensed expired medication. Canadian Humanitarian disputes the allegations.
The charity said in a statement that hopefully, the team will be released on bail Wednesday, at which point they will be free to travel within Ethiopia. It is uncertain when authorities will allow them to return to Canada.
“This has been deeply distressing for all of us. We are focusing all of our efforts on getting our loved ones back to Canada safely and quickly,” said James Murphy, a brother-in-law of one of the detainees.
A representative of Canadian Humanitarian, and consular officers, have been permitted brief access to the prison and confirmed that the detainees have received fair and humanitarian treatment in accordance with internationally recognized law.
Ethiopian authorities have suggested the detainees may need to remain in Ethiopia while an investigation is completed.
Canadian Humanitarian said it will pursue all avenues to get its employees and volunteers back home as soon as possible.
Red Deer dentist Dr. Michael Zuk could not speak to the allegations against Canadian Humanitarian, but said it’s the first time he can remember that the important topic of donating expired medication has been raised publicly.
“I believe there has been a practice, where it has been common, that expired goods have been donated without any second thought on the matter. This will probably wake up the industry that’s it’s not acceptable,” Zuk said.
He said expired medical or dental products can become contaminated over time, because packaging isn’t meant to keep them sterile forever. Some products also do not work as well after the expiration date.
Canadian Humanitarian said while it could not comment on the specifics of the expiry of the medication, it could say with confidence that all medicine and care offered by the team was safe.
“We are vigorously defending the actions and decisions of our team, knowing that every decision was made by highly trained and certified Canadian medical professionals, and that their mission on this trip was to provide essential medical care to the citizens of Ethiopia who need it most.
“The care they provide in Ethiopia is the same care they would provide here in Canada.”
Canadian Humanitarian has been sending teams to Ethiopia for 15 years.
— with files from The Canadian Press