Sobbing Amanda Lindhout tells of abduction as kidnapping trial begins

first_imgOTTAWA – An emotional Amanda Lindhout recounted the horrors of being kidnapped at gunpoint in Somalia as the trial of one of her alleged hostage-takers got underway.Lindhout sobbed Thursday upon approaching the witness box to describe her abduction by a gang of armed, masked men nine years ago, the beginning of what she called 460 days of hell.Lindhout, a freelance journalist from Red Deer, Alta., and Australian photographer Nigel Brennan were seized near Mogadishu in August 2008 while working on a story. Both were released in November 2009 in exchange for a ransom payment.Ali Omar Ader, a 40-year-old Somalian national, has pleaded not guilty to a criminal charge of hostage-taking for his alleged role as a negotiator.He was arrested by the RCMP in Ottawa in June 2015. It emerged during pre-trial motions last spring that the Mounties had lured Ader to Canada through an elaborate scheme to sign a purported book-publishing deal.The Crown says Ader admitted to undercover investigators on two occasions that he was the negotiator in the kidnapping and that he was paid $10,000.Ader sat in the prisoner’s box just metres away from Lindhout as she struggled to gain her composure with the help of a support person who sat beside her during the proceedings.The Crown alleges Ader was known to the hostages as “Adam” and took part in several telephone calls with Lindhout’s mother to demand payment for her daughter’s release.Lindhout, 36, told of being introduced to Adam, who was also called “the commander.”He said Allah had put it into his heart to ask for a ransom for the two journalists, Lindhout told the court.Her mother was earning minimum wage working at a bakery, and her father was on long-term disability. In addition, Canada has a policy of not paying ransoms, prompting Lindhout to tell her captors they might as well kill her now.Lindhout said Adam asked her: “Are you ready to die?”A phone message was left for her father demanding $2.5 million.Trevor Brown, an Ottawa lawyer representing Ader, cross-examined Lindhout with a line of questioning that suggested Adam was not a heavily armed hardcore militant, but an amateur who wore a polo shirt and glasses.Brown referred to past statements Lindhout had supposedly made about the initial meeting with Adam: that he was so dramatic that it was almost comical.Lindhout disagreed with the characterization of her remarks, telling the court Adam’s question about being “ready to die” had a surreal quality to it that would almost have been comical if it weren’t so serious. “It made it all the more real and scary.”At one point, Adam told Lindhout he wanted to marry her — a prospect she found terrifying, she testified. Others also mentioned marriage. “Basically they saw me as a piece of property that they owned.”Lindhout testified she was repeatedly sexually assaulted and beaten while captive. She was moved frequently, spending time in about a dozen different places, often in filthy conditions. In one, rats were “crawling all over my body,” she told the court.Brennan, 45, recounted how he and Lindhout managed to escape briefly five months into their ordeal. They sought sanctuary in a nearby mosque but were swiftly recaptured and kept shackled for the remainder of their captivity.In one house the two were kept in separate rooms but found ways to communicate by knocking on the wall and leaving clandestine notes in the bathroom “to bolster each other’s spirits,” he told the court.Lindhout said that after a year they were not eating regularly, had only dirty water to drink and were “really sick all the time.”In 2009, Lindhout established The Global Enrichment Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to fostering leadership in Somalia through educational and community-based programs.last_img read more

Ontario cuts conservation authority funding for flood programs

first_imgTORONTO — Ontario conservation authorities say the provincial government has cut their funding for flood management programs in half.Conservation Ontario, which represents the province’s 36 conservation authorities, said impacts of the cuts will be felt immediately, particularly in smaller and more rural areas.“Cutting natural hazards funding is particularly problematic right now in light of the fact that — like everywhere else — Ontario is experiencing stronger and more frequent flood events as a result of climate change impacts,” general manager Kim Gavine said in a statement.“Using a watershed-based approach, conservation authorities deliver effective and cost efficient flood management programs across the province, partnering for many years with the province, municipalities and others.”Ontario had given $7.4 million to the conservation authorities for that work, but they say that has now been reduced by 50 per cent.Conservation authorities forecast flooding and issue warnings, monitor stream flow, regulate development activities in flood plains, educate the public about flooding and protect natural cover that helps reduce the impacts of flooding. Natural Resources and Forestry Minister John Yakabuski said the government is trying to eliminate the deficit — currently at $11.7 billion — and has asked conservation authorities to focus on their core mandate.“Flood control is part of that core mandate and we’ve asked them to focus on that,” he said.  “Across the province we average less than 10 per cent of conservation authorities’ funding. In fact, some of them are as low as 2.5 per cent provincial funding. And we’ve heard from different conservation authorities across the province that have said that this will not affect their ability to deal with flood management.”Green party Leader Mike Schreiner said it’s short-sighted, when a flood on one day in August last year in Toronto cost $80 million in insurable losses.“I don’t think there’s any way to reconcile saying, ‘Focus on your core mandate and then we’re going to cut your core mandate in half,’ especially at a moment in time when we know the intensity of storms is going up, the risk of flooding is going up, the costs associated with that are going up,” he said.The chief administrative officer of Quinte Conservation said his organization has relied on the province’s transfer payment to fund essential flood programs throughout its 6,000 square-kilometre watershed.“The government has been very clear about its goal to reduce costs, but a 50-per-cent reduction in payments that support government mandated responsibilities will have a significant impact on how we can deliver our programs and services,” Brad McNevin said in a statement.Allison Jones, The Canadian Presslast_img read more