TORONTO: A lawyer has sued the federal government for forcing 26 ISIS-linked Canadians to return home from Syrian refugee camps, saying time is of the essence to bring them back home.

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Last month, a proceeding was filed on behalf of 11 families alleging that the federal government neglected to uphold parts of the Federal Court Act, the Citizenship Act, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the International Convention on the Rights of the Child. is of. , when it comes to the efforts of the government in bringing back their loved ones.

“It basically requires Global Affairs Canada to do what they should, which is what brings our Canadians home,” Lawrence Greenspawn, a criminal defense attorney who filed the lawsuit, told Granthshala News.

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“There’s no reason why these Canadians can’t be brought home to their loved ones here in Canada.”

In all, the application lists 26 Canadians – 14 children, eight women and four men – who are being held in al-Hol and al-Roz prison camps and in Hasaka, Kamishli and Derrick prisons in the regions of north-eastern Syria . .

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The application describes conditions in the camps as “terrible”, with “non-existent sanitation measures” and “lack of clean water”.

“The conditions in the camps and of course in prisons are such that there are everyday matters and we would hope to get through this as quickly as possible,” Greenspawn said.

Alexandra Bain, director of Families Against Violent Extremism (FAVE), said the application included only 26 Canadians stranded in Syria.

“We still have about 40 people, they are not all with our organization, but they will benefit from this court case,” she told Granthshala News. “We have over 25 children and each of them is a Canadian citizen.”

Greenspon hopes the lawsuit will force the Canadian government to issue passports to these detainees, officially request repatriation and appoint someone to oversee the detainees’ handovers.

Global Affairs Canada did not provide a statement published by the time, but issued a statement about the same case last month and said at the time that the government is “aware of Canadian citizens detained in northeastern Syria and in particular of Canadian children”. concerned with the matters in the area.”

The statement also said that the situation in the region has limited the government’s ability to provide consular services to Canadians.

Global Affairs declined to comment further, citing the Privacy Act and said it was a matter before the courts.

Other cases show that it can be done

Greenspawn filed a similar motion last year on behalf of Amira, a five-year-old orphan trapped in the Al-Hol camp. He said that after filing the documents, Amira was quickly brought to Canada to live with her uncle and grandparents.

Greenspawn said another Canadian child stranded in Syria since Amira’s case has also been brought home.

In the past, Global Affairs has cited the instability of the region and the lack of consular services in Syria for inaction in bringing these Canadians home, but Greenspon argued Amira’s cases and Second Child showed it could be done. Is.

He said, ‘No incident happened. “It was not a matter of security and the fact that we do not have consular relations was not a deterrent.

We were able to do this for Amira, so the real question is, why can’t we do the same for the other 26 Canadians who are in very dire circumstances?”

Bain reiterated that none of the assumptions that it is too difficult for government officials to enter Syria are true.

“The government continues to act as if there is nothing they can do for this people, (that) it is impossible to go into northeastern Syria, which is nonsense,” she said.

Other countries such as France and Germany have brought back many detainees, including children.

loved ones plead for help

Those named in the application also include Kimberly Polman, who married an ISIS fighter and emigrated to Syria in 2015. She had planned to use her nursing skills to help women and children in the region, but quickly regretted the move.

When Polman tried to leave, he was imprisoned and is now in a camp and on a hunger strike.

“It is the worst form of torture to be sustained, not only in these conditions, but indefinitely,” said Polman’s sister, not wishing to be named for security reasons.

“He doesn’t have a trial date. There are no charges against him.”

Polman’s sister said Canadians don’t like what her loved one has done, but her sister is a Canadian citizen and should have equal rights as everyone else.

Bain said anyone returning to Canada will likely need significant medical treatment, mental health counseling, educational training and in some cases help “getting away from extremism”.

“We want to bring these kids home and repair what’s been done, and that’s what we’re working on,” she said. “Not all children under the age of six take responsibility for being in such a group.”

Greenspawn said there is no timeline for when these Canadians can be repatriated, but expects it to be resolved within “weeks.”

With files from Granthshala.ca author Kristi Somos