MPs approve motion calling for government strategy on returning ISIS members
The political debate over what to do with Canadians who were part of the so-called Islamic State returned to Parliament on Monday, with the Conservatives demanding a federal strategy on the matter.
An opposition motion tabled in the House of Commons called on the government of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to put forward a plan within 45 days for bringing to justice those who fought with ISIS.
The Liberals said they would support the motion, despite disagreeing with some of it. “We will be supporting the Conservative’s opposition day motion,” the prime minister just said in question period.
MPs approved the motion by a 280 to 1 vote on Tuesday night.
WATCH: Canadian ISIS fighter captured in northern Syria says he wants to return to Canada
MP Michelle Rempel introduced the motion, arguing the government should acknowledge that anyone who travelled abroad to take part in terrorism or genocide should face legal consequences.
“To date this government under Justin Trudeau has failed to take action, and Andrew Scheer’s Conservatives are calling on the Prime Minister to immediately table a plan to serve justice to anyone who left our country to fight with this terrorist organization,” Rempel told reporters in Ottawa.
The government should look into legal reforms that ensure the courts have access to evidence against terror suspects, while also providing adequate resources to security agencies to monitor them, she said.
In particular, the government should encourage greater use of peace bonds that place conditions on terror suspects through electronic monitoring and restrictions on their social media use, Rempel said.
The Conservatives also asked the government to support initiatives such as the one proposed over the weekend by Ontario Premier Doug Ford to cut off returning terrorist group members from provincial social programs.
The longstanding problem of making use of intelligence information in the courts needed to be addressed, Rempel said.
“How can we in Canada, within our own domestic laws, better link evidence that we do have, or evidence we gather through our intelligence sources, to the judicial process?”
During debate on the motion, Karen McCrimmon, the parliamentary secretary for public safety, said the government was being “vigilant without being alarmist” and said two terror suspects had been convicted after returning to Canada and two more were awaiting trial.
The federal government has come under pressure over its handling of terrorist fighters in the wake of a series of Global News reports about Canadians captured in Syria over allegations they had been involved in ISIS.
One of them, Muhammad Ali, said in an interview he had served in an ISIS sniper unit. On social media, the Mississauga resident had also encouraged others to join ISIS or attack Canada.
Global News has confirmed that U.S.-backed Kurdish forces are holding at least three Canadians accused of being ISIS fighters, three Canadian wives of ISIS foreign fighters and seven children.
All want to return to Canada and the Syrian Democratic Forces, who are holding them, want to hand them over to the Canadian government. But none have yet been charged, raising questions about what will happen upon their return.
WATCH: ISIS fighters’ Canadian wives want to return home
Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale has said anyone involved in terrorism would be investigated. “We will collect evidence and where that evidence is appropriate, we will lay charges to the full extent of the law.”
But Rempel, the immigration critic, and public safety critic Pierre Paul-Hus, said the current procedure for bringing perpetrators of atrocities to justice was slow and failed victims.
The opposition motion quoted Nobel Peace Prize winner Nadia Murad, an Iraqi Yazidi kidnapped by ISIS, who has written about her wish to see all ISIS members put on trial like Nazis following the Second World War.
The motion urged the House to support Murad’s appeal for justice and called on the government “to refrain from repeating past mistakes of paying terrorists with taxpayers dollars or trying to reintegrate returning terrorists back into Canadian society, but rather table, within 45 days after the adoption of this motion, a plan to immediately bring to justice anyone, including those who are in Canada, or have Canadian citizenship, and have fought as an ISIS terrorist or participated in any terrorist activity.”
The Conservatives also asked the government to recognize that ISIS committed atrocities against ethnic and religious minorities, notably Yazidis, Iraqi Christians, Coptic Christians and Shias.
Canada should acknowledge “that every person who took up arms with ISIS is as complicit as its leaders and must face justice,” Rempel said during debate over the motion.
“While we don’t agree with every word of the motion, we’re supporting it as an endorsement of Nadia Murad and as a show of solidarity that Canadians are united in our determination to see terrorists brought to justice,” said Scott Bardsley, Goodale’s spokesperson.
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