The Prime Minister of Canada seems to have changed his mind, and it’s making flowers bloom in the harsh desert of northeast Syria.
Maybe not so much a change of mind as a change of circumstances.
The Canadian government appears to be on the verge of repatriating some 40 Canadian women and children detained in terrible conditions in a Syrian detention camp.
This is a significant policy change, not necessarily based on compassion, for Canadian citizens who have lived in recent years in miserable external conditions, subjected to violence from nature and other inmates.
A little Canadian boy was recently hit in the head by rocks thrown by Iraqi detainees housed in the same gruesome camp. A nurse stitched up his scalp and sent him back to his mother and their home: a tent pitched in the desert, surrounded by armed Kurdish guards and high fences.
The Canadians are among thousands of foreign nationals detained after the war against the Islamic State, reduced to the status of prisoners because of their marriage to foreign fighters. Most will tell you that they had no idea what they were getting into and were never involved in the violence.
Human rights activists portray their children as innocent victims, forced to suffer for the actions of others and deprived of a normal childhood. Blame mothers and fathers, say advocates, but don’t use that as a reason to destroy young lives.
A lawsuit by Ottawa lawyer Lawrence Greenspon appears to have inspired, or forced, the Trudeau government to take the kind of action that other countries have already taken. France, Australia and Germany have all brought their wives and children home, and the list goes on.
Canada, with few exceptions, has firmly refused to do the same. The threat of losing in court, based on a complaint under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, seems to have caused the Prime Minister to blink.
Greenspon’s lawsuit involves six women and 13 children, but the government has widened its review to include several other families who were not part of the original lawsuit.
Over the past two weeks, almost all female detainees in Roj camp have been told that they and their children are now following a set of guidelines for possible repatriation. Until recently, few people knew such guidelines existed.
That’s not to say they’ll be on a plane next week, but that’s almost certainly the direction it’s headed. Deteriorating conditions in the camp prompted a review of their cases, the government said.
In recent days, the children have relayed voice messages and drawings to Greenspon, who has taken care of their fate on a voluntary basis.
“Hello, it’s Isabella,” a little girl said. “We drew a picture of flowers to thank you for helping me and my mum, brother and sister. There are no flowers in the camp, but I hope we will see some soon. “
Global Affairs Canada informed the women that “threats to the safety of your children” and “unsafe security conditions” led to a reassessment of their situation. He also cited the risk of cholera outbreaks and lack of access to food and clean water.
Dr Alexandra Bain is both thrilled and harshly realistic about the government’s alleged U-turn. She is the founder of a group called Families Against Violent Extremism and has campaigned tirelessly for such a moment.
“It means Canada could finally step up its efforts to meet its legal and moral obligations,” she told me. “In terms of their citizenship rights, their basic human rights and their rights as children.”
The government insists it has no legal obligation to help Canadians outside the country, but may concede in this case after the bombardment of harsh criticism from human rights groups.
Bain said the families had no idea when they might be out of the camp, or how it would be. The United States has long offered to assist Canada in its repatriation efforts.
“The women are hoping to leave tomorrow,” she told me, “or at least be home for Christmas.”
Global Affairs Canada has had no news of the 10 Canadian men also being held by Kurdish authorities, including Jack Letts, whose parents have led a public campaign for his release.
He was infamously nicknamed “Jihadi Jack” by the British media and holds both British and Canadian citizenship.
ctvnews Canada news