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Canada repatriates 6 children of woman deemed security risk from ISIS camp

Click to play video: 'Canada repatriates 6 children of woman deemed security risk from ISIS camp'
Canada repatriates 6 children of woman deemed security risk from ISIS camp
The Canadian Government brought several children from from a camp in Syria. Canadian officials flagged their mother as a potential security risk. Global's Nathaniel Dove has the details on her and of the return – May 7, 2024

The children of a Canadian woman deemed a national security risk have been freed from a detention camp in Syria for captured ISIS members and are now in Canada.

“They’re back,” family lawyer Lawrence Greenspon told Global News.

“Not only are they back but there’s a family that is going to house all six of them together.”

An email to Greenspon from Global Affairs Canada and obtained by Global News states “all six children have arrived safely in Montreal.”

In a statement, Global Affairs Canada said it has “taken extraordinary measures to repatriate six Canadian children from northeastern Syria.”

The department said it couldn’t comment further for privacy reasons. It also thanked the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria (AANES), which controls the region.

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“I just want their well-being,” Foreign Affairs Minister Melanie Joly said, noting the children have gone through “an extremely difficult situation.” She said she wouldn’t comment further.

A statement posted on the AANES website states delegations from western countries including Canada visited on May 6.

“At the end of the meetings, a woman and 10 American children, a woman and three Dutch children, six Canadian children and a Finnish child were handed over, according to a handover document between the Autonomous Administration and the visiting delegations,” the site says.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken also confirmed the repatriation of “six Canadian citizens,” without providing further details.

Click to play video: 'Why do Canadian ISIS women rarely face charges back home?'
Why do Canadian ISIS women rarely face charges back home?

Greenspon said Canadian officials had been looking at possibly sending the kids to different homes but said a single family taking all of them in is the better outcome.

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Referring to all the kids that have returned, he said they’ve been through a lot but agencies have helped them.

Greenspon also said he didn’t know where the mother was. She left the camp, is likely trying to make her way to a Canadian embassy and intends to return to Canada to be with her kids, according to Greenspon.

Public Safety Canada internal memos, obtained by Global News, show the government decided not to repatriate the mother of six because police lack evidence to arrest her.

One memo states RCMP were unable to charge the woman, only referred to as “F.J.,” or restrict her movements with a peace bond and so she “would have freedom of movement upon return to Canada.”

The memos show F.J. was likely motivated to return to Canada to “secure a better quality of life and future for her children.” Ottawa had offered to bring back only F.J.’s children because she did not qualify for assistance under the government’s policy on ISIS detainees.

Threat assessments found she held “extremist ideological beliefs,” and the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) has warned what it calls Canadian Extremist Travellers can pose “a national security risk.”

“Despite the information above, the RCMP does not have sufficient evidence at this time to support section 83 Criminal Code (terrorism) charges or a section 810.011 peace bond,” one of the memos states.

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F.J. is the last of nine Canadian women the federal government has not yet repatriated. Two of the others, Oumaima Chouay and Ammara Amjad, face terrorism charges.

The Public Prosecution Service of Canada previously told Global News hearings were scheduled to determine whether peace bonds, which impose restrictions for the sake of public safety, should be applied to three returnees in Edmonton.

Two others are under peace bonds, while a peace bond for a sixth woman expired.

Dozens of Canadian extremists left to join the so-called Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. Many were killed but others were taken prisoner by U.S.-backed Kurdish forces and held in northeast Syria.

—with files from Stewart Bell

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