The government of Canada will proceed with the repatriation of 19 Canadian women and children being held at detention camps in northeast Syria. The lawyer for the applicants, Lawrence Greenspon, Thursday confirmed in an exclusive interview with the CBC that a “mutually acceptable” agreement has been reached.
The agreement stems from a court action brought by the detained Canadians’ family members under the name “BOLOH” (“Bring Our Loved Ones Home”). Lawyers for the applicants argue that the government is obliged to facilitate their return from the camps. They claim that refusing to do so violates the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, in particular the right to “life, liberty and security of person” under Section 7 of the Charter.
The detainees are being held in a camp for those with suspected Islamic State ties. In a recent report, Human Rights Watch stated that over 42,400 foreign nationals accused of Islamic State links remain in camps and prisons in northeast Syria. The detainees, many of which are children, are held by Kurdish-led authorities. The conditions are described as life-threatening, with extreme violence and a paucity of adequate medical care, clean water, shelter and education.
The repatriation agreement marks a significant triumph for the families and the women and children detained. Letta Tayler, an associate director at Human Rights Watch, shared a photo of six children to be repatriated holding a sheet that reads “Thanks Lawrence, you are a great person.”
However, details of the agreement are entirely confidential. Therefore, it is entirely unclear which, if any, of the women will face prosecution on their return.
Notably, four male Canadian applicants are excluded from the repatriation agreement. It is expected that Justice Henry Brown will deliver a ruling in the Federal Court in respect of the male detainees early this year.