Christianne Boudreau’s impossible search for answers about extremist son
WATCH ABOVE: Christianne Bourdreau wants to know how her son was able to get a passport while he was under surveillance. But as Vassy Kapelos reports, getting any information is proving impossible.
OTTAWA — Damian Clairmont was 21 years old when he left Calgary to fight with a terror group in Syria.
His mother, Christianne Boudreau, had no idea until two months later, when she says the Canadian Intelligence Security Service (CSIS) came knocking at her door to tell her.
“Literally, when they left, I vomited,” she said.
Clairmont was reportedly killed in Syria in early 2014 and ever since Boudreau has been searching for answers.
She’s trying to access CSIS and government files on her son, his psychiatrist’s records and find out why Clairmont was granted a passport two months before leaving — even though Boudreau says CSIS was tracking him.
Boudreau said everywhere she turned she has been stonewalled because she can’t prove her son’s death.
“I still want answers, a lot of them,” she said. “I can’t personally get them until I have a death certificate.”
Boudreau said the Government of Canada told her Clairmont is a “missing person” and without proof of his death accessing his information is impossible.
She said she was told she could get a death certificate once Clairmont is classified as a “missing person” for seven years.
François Lasalle, a spokesperson for the Department of Foreign Affairs, said issuing a death certificate is the sole decision of the country or jurisdiction where the death occurred — which, in this case, would be Syria.
Normally, a Canadian consulate could help the process along, but “the Government of Canada’s ability to provide consular assistance in all parts of Iraq and Syria is severely limited,” Lasalle said in an email.
Foreign fighter researcher Amarnath Amarasingam says Boudreau’s frustrations are shared by other families he’s spoken with, who are also struggling to get closure.
“We’ve seen a variety of things happen to parents, who descend into alcoholism and depression [and] kind of forcefully even isolate themselves from the community because they feel ashamed,” he said. “[The government] needs to provide a lot more closure to these families, either through death certificates or other legal measures just so these parents can even move on.”
Citizenship and Immigration Minister Chris Alexander said his government is determined to stop Canadians from traveling to fight with terror groups.
“Our government has given a very clear answer about where things stand in terms of the administrative side of that family tragedy,” he told Global News. “But my focus as Canada’s minister of Citizenship and Immigration is making sure that we continue to revoke and cancel passports of Canadians who have the intention, the misguided intention of going abroad to fight with terrorists.”
Alexander questioned Liberal leader Justin Trudeau’s commitment to doing the same, pointing to comments Trudeau made yesterday about leaving the coalition’s air campaign to fight ISIS.
“He said Canada should just sit on the sidelines and do nothing to stop a genocidal terrorist group,” Alexander said. “Those are irresponsible comments.”
Asked about his comments at a Montreal parade, Trudeau said he thinks Canada has an important role to play in the coalition against ISIS.
“I just feel the best way to do that is not the way the PM has envisaged,” he said.
Amarasingam said politicizing the issue doesn’t help.
“Many of these parents don’t talk about what’s happening to their families for precisely this reason,” he said.
For Boudreau especially, it’s not about politics – just a mom’s desperate need to find out what happened to her son.
“I lost a child – how do you get that back?”
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