The federal government is appealing a court order to repatriate 4 Canadian men detained in Syria
The federal government is appealing a federal court ruling ordering the government to repatriate four Canadian men detained in prisons for suspected ISIS members in northeastern Syria.
In its memorandum to the Federal Circuit, the government is requesting that the court’s order be stayed pending appeal.
The Canadian men – who have not been charged with any crimes – are currently in prisons run by Kurdish forces in northern Syria and being jailed over alleged ISIS links. The Canadian government has listed ISIS as a terrorist group.
In his ruling last month, Federal Court Judge Henry Brown said the four men had the right to return to Canada under Section 6(1) of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The section states that “every citizen of Canada has the right to enter, remain in and leave Canada”.
But in its appeal, the government argues that Brown misconstrued the right to enter Canada under Section 6(1).
“The court has actually created a right of return,” says the complaint.
In his ruling, Brown directed Ottawa to seek the men’s repatriation as soon as possible and provide them with passports or emergency travel documents.
Brown said the men also had the right to have a federal government representative travel to Syria to facilitate their release once their captors agreed to extradite them.
Before the decision of the Federal Court of Justice, the federal government reached an agreement to repatriate 19 women and children from prison camps in north-eastern Syria. The court’s verdict only applied to the four men.
Jack Letts, who has been imprisoned in Syria for more than four years, is one of the four men.
Letts admitted to joining ISIS in Syria in an interview in 2019, calling it the “stupidest thing he’s ever done,” according to an interview with UK-based ITV News. His family say he made the admission under duress. His family also said he has been detained by ISIS three times and has denied being part of the terror group since 2014.
Letts was a dual British-Canadian citizen before his British citizenship was revoked three years ago.
Barbara Jackman, the attorney representing Lett’s family, told CBC News last month his family hadn’t spoken to him in years and didn’t know what his condition was.
Objecting to a ‘cruel delaying tactic’: Jack Lett’s mother
In a statement to CBC News, Sally Lane, Jack Letts’ mother, said the government was using the appeal to delay the process.
“This appeal is a cruel delaying tactic based on clearly frivolous arguments that were firmly dismissed in the original court decision,” she said.
“Canada is only prolonging the torture of my son and the other male inmates and again [is] shows that he acts in the same way as the rogue states he condemns when they violate international law.”
The appeal said the situation in the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria (AANES) – the Kurdish-controlled region that administers the prisons – is “dangerous for all involved (including the detained suspects and Canadian government employees). violent, variable, and anything but certain or constant.”
Lane challenged that claim.
“The Canadian government’s argument that it would be too difficult to bring my son back when Canada is in the exact same region defies logic and defies every human rights commitment this country has ever made,” she said.
“Canada has always had the capacity to do that.”
The identities and circumstances of the three other Canadian men have not been released.
Attorney Lawrence Greenspon, representing these three men, said he was disappointed but not surprised by the federal decision to appeal Brown’s verdict.
“I look forward to defending a bold, compelling and comprehensive judgment,” Greenspon told the Canadian Press.
Greenspon said Friday repatriation efforts for the women and children are expected to continue.
“Thank God we made the deal for the women and children,” he said, implying that their return to Canada might have been held up otherwise.
Matthew Behrens, an activist pleading with the government to repatriate Canadians from Syria, said in an email to CBC that Lett’s family last heard from him through a September 2021 Red Cross letter to Lane, in which he said: told her not to give up.