During question period on Tuesday, Conservative Opposition Leader Andrew Scheer asked Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to explain why Canadian officials had reached out to a British 22-year-old with Canadian citizenship who is imprisoned by Kurdish forces in Syria.
“This government proactively reached out to try to bring this individual, who has fought with a terrorist organization, back to Canada. They took it upon themselves to reach out to bring this individual to Canada, why?” Scheer demanded.
Trudeau responded to Scheer’s questions broadly, stating that his government takes “with the utmost seriousness, the threats posed by travelling extremists.”
According to previous reporting by Global News, Jack Letts, who is a Muslim convert, traveled to Syria in 2014, where he eventually earned the nickname “Jihadi Jack” in the British press. Letts is a British citizen, but obtained a Canadian citizenship through his father.
Hundreds of ISIS foreign fighters, as well as their wives and children, have been captured by the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces.
WATCH: Parents of ‘Jihadi Jack’ appeal to Canada for help
While he was in ISIS-controlled territory, Letts has denied being a member of the extremist group and his parents insist there is no evidence to suggest this. The U.K. has made it clear they will not assist him in any way, and because of his Canadian patronage, Ottawa has taken over the case.
A transcript between Letts and Global Affairs Canada previously released to Global News shows that officials have reached out to some of the detainees, though they’ve admitted that there’s little they can do to help them.
“If it would be possible, would you like to come to Canada? Back to the U.K.?” the consular official asked.
“I want to live a normal life. I want to come to Canada,” Letts replied.
“It is a Criminal Code offence to travel abroad and engage in terrorist activity. Canadian law enforcement actively pursues investigations and lays criminal charges when there is evidence to support them. We also have a full range of counterterrorism tools,” Trudeau said.
Scheer pressed on with his line of questioning, asking Trudeau to “explain to Canadians why his government is taking it upon themselves to invite a British citizen who has fought with ISIS to Canada.”
Trudeau eventually retorted that Conservatives were simply “grasping at straws” to “try and make Canadians feel unsafe.”