Remembering slain Canadian hostage John Ridsdel

The World
Military personnel stop a vehicle for inspection.

Military personnel stop a vehicle for inspection. Rigid security measures are now imposed when entering Samal Island after some foreign nationals, including Canadian John Ridsdel were abducted by unidentified rebel gunmen. Ridsdel was later executed.

Dante Dennis V Diosina Jr/Getty Images

It's been a devastating time for the family of John Ridsdel. The Canadian man was executed by Islamist militants in the Philippines after the deadline for ransom had passed. 

Ridsdel, 68, was captured on September 21 along with three other tourists by members of the Abu Sayyaf militant group, while on vacation at a resort on a southern island in the Philippines. The group is allied with ISIS.

According to Reuters, the kidnappers initially demanded that military operations against them be stopped immediately. Ridsdel had appeared in a video, a knife brandished next to him, saying, "Please stop all of these operations so that negotiations can start about their demands."

Abu Sayyaf is described as a small group known for kidnappings, beheadings and extortion. The militants demanded a ransom and threatened to kill one of its male hostages if the sum was not paid by April 25. 

The Canadian government has a policy of not paying ransoms, "which means that it's only the families that can possibly play a role in dealing with the ransom demand," says Bob Rae, a longtime friend of Ridsdel who was helping the family behind the scenes. 

As the former premier of Ontario, Rae put the family in touch with the Canadian Embassy in the Philippines. But "the fact of the matter is the capturing of people and the use of people as hostages for ransom is a business plan. It's how Abu Sayyaf functions. If a ransom that's sufficient to satisfy them isn't paid, they will kill people." 

According to Reuters, the Philippine army found Ridsdel's severed head five hours after the ransom deadline passed.

Rae described Ridsdel, whom he's known since college, as full of energy and integrity. "John conducted himself in the most difficult of circumstances with a huge amount of integrity and a great deal of love for his family and for his friends ... [which] makes this ending all the more tragic."  

Ridsdel was a retired journalist and mining executive from Calgary.

"He was curious, he was adventurous, he was a risk taker, he was a bon vivant. He lived life to the full[est]," remembers Rae. After working for a mining company in the Philippines, Ridsdel retired there and "spent a lot of time on a sailboat."

Ridsdel was on the marina dock on southern Samal Island when he was captured.  

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called Ridsdell's execution "an act of cold-blooded murder" and said "responsibility rests squarely with the terrorist group who took him hostage."

Philippine President Benigno Aquino III vowed to devote all his energy before he leaves office in two months to eliminating Abu Sayyaf militants.

Abu Sayyaf continues to hold captive Canadian Robert Hall, Filipina Marites Flor and Norwegian Kjartan Sekkingstad.

Ridsdel's family released a statement after the news of his death: "Our family is devastated at [the] loss of our father and brother John Ridsdel whose life was tragically cut short by this senseless act of violence despite us doing everything within our power to bring him home," the statement read. "He was loved by all his friends and adored by his daughters, sister, and extended family. He will be sorely missed in the days to come."