Wednesday, May 04, 2016

We'll Know The Answer

When news broke that John Ridsdel had been beheaded by terrorists, Justin Trudeau sounded like William Tecumseh Sherman: “I do want to make one thing perfectly, crystal clear,” Trudeau said, his ministers standing behind him. “Canada does not – and will not – pay ransom to terrorists, directly or indirectly.”

Andrew Cohen writes that, at that moment, Justin also sounded like his father:

It was a bold, bald refusal. What was striking about his declaration and the subsequent explanation was his tone and delivery. It was largely free of the hesitation – the verbal tick of ums and ahs – that sometimes punctuate Trudeau’s speech.

His statement on ransom felt instinctive, even guttural. It flowed from him like his defence of citizens’ rights (“a Canadian is a Canadian is a Canadian”) in the election campaign. Or when he invoked the memory of his father (“I’m incredibly proud to be Pierre Elliott Trudeau’s son and I’m incredibly lucky to be raised with those values.”)

In talking about hostages, he exuded a confidence shorn of doubt. More than ever, he was his father.

The jury is still out on whether or not Justin is his father's son. And, responses in these situations are more difficult than they at first appear. Trudeau the Elder said he would not bargain with James Cross's kidnappers. However,

Morality is messy. Six weeks after the kidnappings in Quebec in 1970, Trudeau’s government negotiated with the kidnappers who held Cross. In exchange for his release, the kidnappers were allowed safe passage to Cuba.

Ultimately, then, Pierre Trudeau did what was necessary to save a life. In a similar situation, his rhetoric notwithstanding, would Justin Trudeau not do the same?

That's a difficult question. Chances are that Justin will be tested on this file yet again. And we'll know the answer.



Steve said...

In addition to the middle east, the Pines, Thailand, and Indonesia are all places where you are on your own.

Owen Gray said...

You're right, Steve. It's getting more and more dangerous to travel abroad.

Anonymous said...

As you both pointed out, the number of terrorists in the world has increased since the time of Pierre Trudeau. Since the probability of one successful demand leading to more hostage takings and more ransom demands is much greater than it was, governments, for the safety of their citizens, should not pay ransoms. That policy is much more important than it used to be; I hope Justin Trudeau is able to stick to his guns. Having said that, I also hope that I or mine are never held for terrorist ransom.

The Mound of Sound said...

I'm not sure what William Tecumseh Sherman sounded like. I don't think he did much talking, tough or otherwise. He seemed to be more action-oriented from Bull Run all the way to his march through Georgia. Not sure that Junior is cut from that same cloth at all.

Owen Gray said...

You have articulated the dilemma which faces all of us, Anon. Anyone of us could be held hostage. All it would take would be a situation where we were in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Owen Gray said...

They say that Lincoln's voice was not very impressive, Mound. I don't know about Sherman's voice. But, when he was asked if he would run for president, he said -- categorically -- "NO!" We'll see if Justin can do the same.

zoombats in Hong Kong said...

If Justin is indeed " a father's son" let's not forget that he shares the gene pool of his mother, for what it's worth. Just saying

Owen Gray said...

Like his mother, Justin seems to be able to feel others pain, zoombats. He'll need that sense of compassion as he moves forward.

ffd said...

Germany has a whole government department devoted to handling kidnapping of German citizens abroad and it is no secret. I read an article in Stern years ago about their activities and remember it said this department was working on a situation almost all the time. The German approach seems more pragmatic than anything else.

So German citizens know that their government will working to free them. So they feel they can travel abroad on business or holiday with some confidence. Germans do a lot of traveling and a lot of business abroad, even in hostile countries.

Canadians really need to think twice about going abroad. In some countries, even a few thousand dollars is considered a big enough ransom to make kidnapping a Canadian citizen worthwhile. The Canadian approach is well meaning and totally naive and really inhibits Canadian business activities abroad.

Owen Gray said...

I was unaware of the German operation, ffd. That makes more sense than paying ransom.