The details of what Ottawa did to help secure the release of freelance journalist Amanda Lindhout continue to be cloaked in secrecy.
Foreign Affairs issued no further statement on Thursday after initially reporting it was aware of reports on Wednesday that Lindhout, 28, formerly of Sylvan Lake, had been freed by Somalian gunmen after 15 months in captivity.
Canadian government officials have refused to say what role, if any, they had in securing her freedom. Prime Minister Stephen Harper issued a statement to say the government was not involved in paying a ransom and he warned Canadians against travelling to the lawless country.
Lindhout, along with Australian Nigel Brennan, 38, were released on Wednesday and have since been reunited with their families in Nairobi, Kenya. They were kidnapped on Aug. 23, 2008.
The families held a number of fundraisers to raise money for a ransom.
“It’s been such a long ordeal for Amanda and Nigel, and no doubt the family has been distressed by this over the last 15 months,” Red Deer MP Earl Dreeshen said from Ottawa on Thursday. “I’ve had an opportunity to support them throughout the ordeal and I’ve had a chance to advocate for her interest at the federal level.”
Dreeshen said his only concern was Lindhout’s safe return.
Former Red Deer MP Bob Mills said federal officials were working on the case, mostly from Kenya.
When asked if that had been enough, Dreeshen said he couldn’t comment on the details of what transpired.
“I know that this has been uppermost in everyone’s minds — even since August of last year,” Dreeshen said. “Everything we possibly could do has been done.”
Dreeshen said he couldn’t say what kind of involvement Prime Minister Stephen Harper had.
“I do know everyone has been aware of this and there are some things you can’t deal with publicly,” Dreeshen said.
Dreeshen and Mills met with Lindhout’s parents, Jon Lindhout of Sylvan Lake and Lorinda Stewart of British Columbia, a couple of weeks ago. The parents asked for the meeting because they were growing frustrated over their daughter’s 15-month-old ordeal, according to Mills.
“It was a great opportunity to speak to both Jon and Lorinda, but as far as any details from any meetings we’ve had, we won’t be releasing any of that,” Dreeshen said. “We had been working with the family and were trying to respect their wishes.”
Eric Rajah travels regularly to Africa for humanitarian work through A Better World, the Lacombe charity he co-founded. He figures Canadians were working in Kenya because that’s where a number of East African headquarters are located. The Canadian High Commission, which represents Canadian interests in a number of African countries, has its office in Nairobi.
“I heard of a possibility that she would be released,” said Rajah, who heard reports while travelling through Kenya a couple of weeks ago.
A security company official based in Calgary said he doubts Canadian officials met with members of Somalia’s transitional government.
“We’ll probably never know the truth what happened,” said Daniel Clayton, president of Diligence Ltd..
He emailed Stewart with any intelligence information he had about her daughter, but she never responded to any of his emails. Similar reports were passed on to the Canadian government.
He has no idea if any information he gathered had been acted upon.
“We closely monitored the early stages of the case, provided reports, and then withdrew our involvement approximately six months ago, when we learned of other efforts being co-ordinated to rescue Amanda so as not to compromise the investigation or rescue efforts,” Clayton said. “We have never been hired by the (family).”
Clayton said he “knows for a fact” a security company from outside Canada was used to secure the pair’s release.