Canadian children return from Syria without mothers

Six Canadian children are set to leave a Syrian prison camp and fly to Canada without their mother, who cannot accompany them because federal officials have not completed her security assessment, family advocates say. know.

Alexandra Bain of Families Against Violent Extremism said the federal government has given the Quebec woman until today to decide whether her children will join other Canadians. on the repatriation flight, expected to depart any day or stay with her in Syria.

“I’m shocked. It makes no sense,” Bain said Saturday in an interview. “That’s not how I would expect Canada to behave.”

Canadians are among many foreign nationals in camps in Syria run by Kurdish forces, who have recaptured the war-torn area from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.

Bain, whose organization helps families with loved ones caught up in violent extremist groups, said the children, ages 3 to 16, have no family in Quebec. At least two out of six children were born in Syria. There is a plan for Quebec social services agencies to care for six people, in three groups of two.

Bain said the mother, who does not know if she will be allowed to leave al-Roj camp in northeastern Syria or when she will be allowed to leave the camp, is worried about how to maintain contact with her children. me.

“She’s doing this for her children. And she’s afraid she’s doing the wrong thing.”

Attorney Lawrence Greenspon, who is supporting the family, added: “It’s not a choice any parent has to make.”

Bain and Greenspon requested that the woman’s name not be released due to the sensitivity of the case and the privacy concerns involved.

Greenspon argued in Federal Court on behalf of some of the men, women and children detained in Syria that Foreign Affairs Canada must arrange for their return, saying it was illegal to refuse to do so. violate the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Greenspon reached an agreement with the federal government in January to bring home six Canadian women and 13 children who were involved in the court case. All 19 people are expected to be on the upcoming repatriation flight from Syria.

There is hope that the Quebec woman and her six children, although not part of the lawsuit, will also board the plane together.

Greenspon said while the children have been allowed to leave Syria, their mothers are still being assessed by federal security.

Mr. Greenspon said that separating mothers from their children violates Canada’s international commitments as well as government policy in assessing possible repatriation cases. “Their own policy framework says they shouldn’t do this.”

Global Affairs Canada did not immediately respond to questions about the Quebec family’s case.

Bain received a November 24 letter from Global Affairs stating that the woman and her six children had met the criteria for federal consideration of assistance to Canadians detained in the region, granted outlined in the government’s January 2021 policy framework.

The letter noted threats to the safety of the woman and her children “due to dangerous security conditions inside the camp.” It also cites reports of declining sanitation and living conditions, including potential cholera outbreaks and intermittent access to food and clean water.

Bain said the woman was beaten and assaulted while in custody.

As part of the repatriation procedure, the RCMP recently conducted interviews with Canadians detained in Syria. The Quebec woman spoke to the Mounties last Wednesday, an experience she found confusing and terrifying, Bain said. The next day, “they told her she couldn’t go home.”

Bain knows about 10 other Canadian children being held in Syria with non-Canadian mothers. These mothers have decided not to send their children to Canada as part of the repatriation effort, she said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published on April 2, 2023.

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