I am shocked, although I shouldn’t be, how many people are vehemently opposed to repatriating Canadian Citizens held in detention camps and prisons in northern Syria.
This political hot potato raised its ugly head again last week with the return of a five-year-old orphan known only as Amira.
Regardless of public opinion, it is shameful the Canadian government originally tried to block her repatriation before caving to pressure from the girl’s uncle and Ottawa-based lawyer Lawrence Greenspon.
Even more shameful is the fact there are 25 more children languishing in the life-threatening conditions of the camps, who, so far, the feds are continuing to ignore citing Amira as an “exceptional” case because her parents were killed.
The backlash against these innocents is based on the fact they were taken to Iraq or Syria by, or they were born there to, parents, some of whom may or may not have been going there to fight for the Islamic State and may or may not be guilty of crimes.
When the Liberals repealed the previous Conservative government’s disgusting and totally unconstitutional legislation that allowed Canada to strip citizenship from citizens accused (not even necessarily convicted) of terrorist acts or war crimes, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau rightly said, “A Canadian is a Canadian is a Canadian. And you devalue the citizenship of every Canadian in this place and in this country when you break down and make it conditional for everyone.”
This is not a political issue. The country is legally obligated under the highest law of the land, The Constitution, to at least do everything in its power to bring Canadians home regardless of what they may or may not have done.
And, of course, it can be exceedingly difficult to prosecute people for crimes committed overseas, particularly in a war zone.
Adding to that difficulty is the fact that, while other countries may arbitrarily and maliciously detain people without due process, that is something we do not do (at least in theory). So, if we did bring them home, it may be very hard to hold them without trampling all of their Charter rights.
Those difficulties do not change the fact that Canadian citizenship entails the guarantee that Canada is going to have your back if you wind up in hot water overseas.
And, even if bringing home suspected terrorists is not a political sword a government wants to die on, there can be no justification for allowing children to suffer for the alleged sins of their parents or other family members.
Canada is a country ostensibly committed to the fundamental principles of human rights and justice for all, not just those who conveniently don’t challenge a ruling party’s political fortunes.
There are many, many instances in which we do not live up to those lofty ideals, but that does not mean we should abandon them.
Trudeau’s response to Canadian children in Syrian detention, and by extension every single one of us at home and abroad, is hyprocrisy of the highest order and an affront to our democracy.