NEWS file photo Lois Eaton with her e-petition, e-696, which asked the federal government for an increase in consular service for kidnapped and abducted citizens, involvement from international experts and to keep the families of kidnapped victims better informed.

Government’s response to Qualicum Beach woman’s e-petition ‘disrespectful’

Lois Eaton said she received the response Sept. 13

Lois Eaton says she is frustrated by the federal government’s response to her e-petition.

Eaton, a Qualicum Beach resident, created an e-petition aimed at increasing consular services (help and advice from a government agent) for Canadian kidnapping or abduction victims, involving international experts who have been previously successful in dealing with organizations engaged in kidnapping worldwide and keeping the families of kidnapped victims informed.

Eaton’s cousin, Robert Hall, was kidnapped in September of 2015 in the Philippines and eventually beheaded in June 2016 by the Abu Sayyaf Group, Eaton previously told The NEWS. Hall, along with another Canadian citizen, John Ridsdel, was beheaded by the Abu Sayyaf Group, but Hall’s fiancée, Tess, was released.

Courtenay-Alberni MP Gord Johns, who sponsored the e-petition, presented it to the House of Commons on June 13, the one-year anniversary of Hall’s beheading.

The rules governing the House of Commons requires the government to respond to the e-petition within 45 calendar days of it being presented.

Eaton said she received her response on Sept. 13 — three months after the e-petition was presented.

“It was a shock to me that it came so many days outside of the 45-day calendar requirement,” Eaton said.

Even worse, after reading the government’s response, Eaton said it felt like no one had read the e-petition.

“The e-petition basically asked for a plan. A plan that includes professionals who are trained in this area and they (the government) claimed they had them… professionals in dealing with the family,” she said.

The response from the government said terrorist hostage cases are treated as a priority and resources are mobilized accordingly with dedicated experts.

“The Government of Canada regularly reviews its practices and procedures in complex cases such as these with an eye to identifying areas for improvement. Recent efforts have included interviews with family members who received direct support from officials during a case, as well as consultations with close international partners and other experts on best practices in supporting hostage families. The Government of Canada is actively applying these lessons learned,” the response states.

The response also says family support remains an essential part of the government’s response to hostage situations, adding that the government knows there is work to be done to improve the flow of information to families.

Eaton said while she doesn’t see the response to be vindictive, she said Hall is dead and something needs to change.

“Nothing is going to bring him back. But I would hope that we don’t need to go through this again with any other Canadian families… that there would be something in place — there needs to be something in place,” Eaton said. “When I look at this petition, they put the petition down. It’s patronizing, placating and it means nothing. And that, to me, is very sad that our government just completely ignores their citizens.”

However, Eaton said, she doesn’t feel like the work she did in getting the petition going was for nothing.

“There’s a whole lot more people now who understand how fragile they are when they leave this country,” said Eaton, though she added she does feel disrespect was shown for the people who signed the petition.

“The government obviously never read it, or if they read it they said ‘How can we make this go away and make it sound like we were doing something?’… It does sadden me that there was so little respect involved with the response.”