Sunday, May 26, 2024

Pick a Day to Join the Chain Fast to Free the Canadian Captives June 1 to 19, 2024





























“Feed the Hungry. Visit the Sick. Set Free the Captives.” – Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him)

 

(Details on how to join the fast for a day or more are below, as are actions you can take even if you are not fasting!)

INTRODUCTION
Please pick a day to fast in support of immediately freeing and bringing home 19 arbitrarily detained Canadian Muslim men, women, and children, including the longest-held detainee at 7+ years, Jack Letts. All of them are illegally held without charge in northeastern Syrian jails and prison camps under conditions the United Nations describes as meeting the “threshold for torture, cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment under international law.” 

 

Their jailers have called on Canada to come and take these long-suffering detainees home. Yet Canada refuses.

 

Justice Henry Brown of the Federal Court stated in December 2022: “Canadians are dying or at risk of dying every day this matter is adjourned.” Every moment of delay increases the risk for the children, men and women.

 

This 19-day chain fast will represent the 9 men, 3 women, and 7 children who belong in Canada. Due to public and legal pressure, Canada has repatriated 32 people from NE Syria, but refuses to budge on the remaining detainees, despite the April, 2024 report of Amnesty International that finds detainees "are facing systematic violations and dying in large numbers due to inhumane conditions.” 

BACKGROUND

US President Joe Biden, Human Rights Watch, the United Nations, the US State Dept., leading United States generals, the International Committee of the Red Cross, Save the Children, and even a House of Commons committee have called for repatriation of all detainees. But a Canadian government long complicit in the torture of its Muslim citizens held abroad has refused to lift a finger to help, even as far smaller and less resourced countries from Kazakhstan to Bosnia and Herzegovina have had no trouble bringing their nationals home. 

 

Ottawa has rightfully invested $3 million towards the repatriation of Iraqi citizens detained in Syria, but when it comes to its own citizens, Ottawa’s only response has been to create a bureaucratic “framework” marinated with insufferable bafflegab that makes it impossible for anyone to come home.  

 

When it comes to Canadian Muslims detained abroad under conditions of torture, Canada has always assumed guilt and been a complicit partner in criminalizing and torturing them. Two judicial inquiries and numerous Federal and Supreme Court decisions have found Canada complicit in the torture of Canadian Muslims abroad over the past two decades. 

 

In addition, the Canadian government, taking a page from its own history of genocidal violence against Indigenous people, is engaged in an insidious process by which it seeks to separate the imprisoned babies and young kids from their moms and dads. Family separation – especially based on racist lies – is never acceptable.

 

As a result, it’s up to those of us who can speak up to do so with public actions like this chain fast.  The chain fast will run during the final few weeks of this Parliamentary sitting.


WHY A FAST?

Fasting has long been a tool to raise awareness both in our communities and within ourselves. When you fast, and your body asks when nutrition will eventually arrive, it is a reminder of a cruel reality. Unlike those of us who fast for a day – and know that what we need for our health is coming soon – for many who hunger for justice, they simply do not know when the decision that will soothe their souls and provide peace of mind will arrive. That uncertainty, which can be indefinite, produces anxiety and trauma. When you fast in support of the Canadian captives, it provides moral support to the families of the detainees and reminds them that they are not alone. It also sends an important message to the Canadian government that you recognize the humanity and the rights of those detained (the very things Canada wants us to dismiss). It also helps spread the word about an injustice that needs to be remedied as soon as possible.


HOW TO PARTICIPATE IN THE CHAIN FAST
a) Pick a day (or a series of days) to fast during June 1 to 19, 2024 and email your name and town to tasc@web.ca so we can add it to the list.

 

b) A list of open dates and names is available at https://homesnotbombs.blogspot.com/2024/05/pick-day-to-join-chain-fast-to-free.html


c) More than one person can fast on the same date.

d) Fast according to your preferred tradition (a full 24 hours, liquids only, sun up to sun down).

e) The fast is open to anyone (you can join even if you are not living in Canada). Even if you cannot fast, we encourage you to do these actions below!


On the day they fast we encourage you to:

1.  take a selfie with a simple message (ie, #FreeThe19, Free the Canadian Captives, Canada Complicit in Arbitrary Detention, Bring Our Loved Ones Home etc.) and share that image via social media, explaining why you are fasting on that day. Email us the image at tasc@web.ca so we can share it too.

 

b. Write an email (sample below) to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Global Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly and Public Safety Minister Dominic LeBlanc to explain why you are fasting. Also, please call Joly at 613-992-0983 and urge her to put an end to this humanitarian nightmare for 19 Canadian men, women and children in NE Syria, and finally bring them home.

 

c. Write a letter to a local newspaper about why you are fasting.

 

d. Fast for an hour in front of your MP’s office.


e. Share this petition: You can copy and paste this link on your social media and email it to your friends as well! https://www.change.org/p/canadians-are-dying-free-jack-letts-43-canadian-kids-women-men-in-syria

 
Thanks for your support!

 

Stop Canadian Involvement in Torture 

 


++++++++++++


 SAMPLE EMAIL (be sure to include the CC-ed MPs and add your own MP if they are not already listed below!)

 

(Feel free to personalize with your own statement imagining what it would be like to know your loved ones are condemned to these brutal camps and prisons and the Canadian government is refusing to lift a finger for them. Use a creative subject line as well that does not make your email look like it is computer-generated!)

 

To: Melanie.Joly@parl.gc.caMelanie.Joly@international.gc.ca

CC:  pam.damoff@parl.gc.carob.oliphant@parl.gc.camichael.chong@parl.gc.cayasir.naqvi@parl.gc.casameer.zuberi@parl.gc.ca,  Stephane.Bergeron@parl.gc.caRachel.Bendayan@parl.gc.caHedy.Fry@parl.gc.catasc@web.caHeather.McPherson@parl.gc.caalistair.macgregor@parl.gc.ca , Randeep.Sarai@parl.gc.caChandra.Arya@parl.gc.caPeter.Schiefke@parl.gc.ca,  Kamal.Khera@parl.gc.ca,  Salma.Zahid@parl.gc.caIqra.khalid@parl.gc.caJoel.Lightbound@parl.gc.caRuby.Sahota@parl.gc.caMajid.Jowhari@parl.gc.ca,  pm@pm.gc.ca,  ps.ministerofpublicsafety-ministredelasecuritepublique.sp@canada.ca , jagmeet.singh@parl.gc.camarc.miller@parl.gc.ca, dominic.leblanc@parl.gc.ca

 

Dear Ministers Joly and Leblanc,

 

I am fasting today as part of a 19-day Chain Fast to Free the Canadian Captives who remain illegally detained in NE Syria because you refuse to bring them home. You must make immediate arrangements to bring home these long-suffering children, women and men.

 

Notably, 32 Canadians have been brought home, but almost always because of the threat of court action. For the remaining 19, they continue to suffer appalling conditions of arbitrary detention, with the April 2024 Amnesty International report finding detainees "are facing systematic violations and dying in large numbers due to inhumane conditions."  

Eighteen months ago, Justice Henry Brown of the Federal Court stated in December 2022: “Canadians are dying or at risk of dying every day this matter is adjourned.” Every moment of your delay increases the risk for the children, men and women, not only from the effects of arbitrary detention but also from ongoing bombings of the area by Turkish drones and fighter jets.  

 

Canada has the necessary contacts on the ground in northeast Syria. It has the support of the world’s most powerful military, American Forces who remain on the ground. Most importantly, it has the consent and clear request of Kurdish authorities who hold the Canadians. 

 

In addition, you and your colleague, Immigration Minister Marc Miller, must also grant temporary resident permits to bring to Canada the non-Canadian mothers of Canadian children, since your notorious Policy Framework clearly states you will not separate children from parents. I was horrified to learn that Global Affairs Canada has delivered four separate, traumatizing ultimatums to these mothers to either give up their children and possibly never see them again, or to keep them in these camps where conditions are akin to torture.

 

I am also disappointed that the Canadian government has repeatedly used unsubstantiated “national security” concerns to justify its failure to assist these Muslim Canadians in coming home. Justice Brown clearly wrote, “Notably the [government] Respondents do not allege any of the Applicants [detainees] engaged in or assisted in terrorist activities. The Respondents affirmed this position at the hearing.” He also stated there was no evidence before the court that anyone had committed offences contrary to Canadian law. Last month, we learned from media reports that Canada would not bring home a mother of six simply because there was nothing to charge her with!

 

“The primacy of the right to return to Canada is reinforced in Canadian law,” Justice Brown wrote in his January 2023 decision. “This is also a critical factor in this Judgment. Simply put, there is no known offence in Canada that carries with it exile or banishment as a penal consequence,” yet both by Canadian actions and conscious inaction, exile or banishment were plainly the result for Canadians stuck in northeast Syria. Indeed, Brown carefully cited jurisprudence that Section 6(1) of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms – whose 40th anniversary you celebrated 2 years ago – “forbids the executive from frustrating the rights of Canadians to enter and return whether by executive actions taken in Canada or abroad.”

 

For too long, you have frustrated and denied the rights of these Muslim Canadians.  

 

Minister Joly, in other instances of citizens in trouble abroad, you have spoken of your responsibility to assist them. 


On April 25, 2023 you declared regarding Sudan: "What's really important is that Canadians know that they can count on their government and Global Affairs Canada to help them …. We are on this and we will make sure that every Canadian is coming back and is safe.” On April 27, 2023, you declared: “My job is to get Canadians out of Sudan.” On October 12, 2023, you declared: “We are committed to supporting Canadians abroad.” On October 30, 2023, you stated regarding citizens trapped in Gaza: “As a government, we have a duty to bring them to safety.” 

 

Please do your job. End your complicity in arbitrary detention, bring everyone home. 
 
Name
Town/City


+++++++++++++++++++


SAMPLE Call (feel free to use your own wording)
Mélanie Joly
613-992-0983 (Ottawa office)
514-383-3709 (Montreal office)

You may or may not get an answering machine (if you do, please leave a message).


Hi, my name is XXXXXXXX and I'm calling from XXXXXXX. I am fasting today as part of a chain fast to call for you to repatriate 19 men, women and children from arbitrary detention in Northeast Syria. Your government has already brought back 32 Canadians from these deplorable camps and prisons. There is no reason for you to prevent the return of everyone else, especially since their lives are at risk every day you delay. 
I am calling on Ms. Joly to immediately bring everyone home – all Canadians and the non-Canadian mothers of Canadian children. Thank you.

 



Those Fasting

Saturday, June 1:
Sunday, June 2:
Monday, June 3:
Tuesday, June 4:
Wednesday, June 5:
Thursday, June 6:
Friday, June 7:
Saturday, June 8:
Sunday, June 9:
Monday, June 10:
Tuesday, June 11:
Wednesday, June 12:
Thursday, June 13: Brian Burch, Toronto, ON
Friday, June 14:
Saturday, June 15:
Sunday, June 16: 
Monday, June 17:
Tuesday, June 18:
Wednesday, June 19: 
 

Wednesday, May 1, 2024

Lawyer seeks Immediate Repatriation for Canadian Detainee on Imminent Flight out of Northeast Syria; Canada Issues Fourth Forcible Child Separation Ultimatum to Mothers Detained in NE Syria Prison Camps

 
















 MAY 1, 2024, OTTAWA

In an urgent letter to Global Affairs Minister Melanie Joly and Public Safety Minister Dominic Leblanc, renowned Canadian lawyer Barbara Jackman called for the repatriation of her client, Jack Letts, who is set to mark 7 years of unlawful, arbitrary detention on May 3 in a northeast Syrian prison. The letter was delivered during the same week that a number of non-Canadian mothers of Canadian children also illegally detained in northeast Syria for over 5 years were once again told the price of their children’s freedom was giving them up permanently to Canadian officials.

 

I have learned that a flight to repatriate a number of Canadian children from Northeast Syria is imminent,” Jackman wrote. “I urgently request that my client be placed on that same aircraft and brought back to his family in Canada.”

 

Jackman continued, “There is clearly no reason for you to deny this urgent request for repatriation, one which would finally put an end to the arbitrary detention of Jack Letts. This would be the 8th such repatriation flight since they began in 2020, which shows Canada can engage seriously and constructively with this issue…. Clearly, it is unreasonable to not place Mr. Letts on the next Canada-bound flight and, upon his arrival, place him under terms and conditions (such as a peace bond) if borne out by credible evidence and a competent judicial authority believes it is necessary to do so. Jack has indicated time and again his willingness to cooperate with any such judicial process.”

 

Jackman’s extensive letter pointed out that the Federal Court of Canada criticized the current repatriation framework employed by Global Affairs Canada that allegedly determines whether or not Canadian citizens can return to Canada. She also referenced the publication of a blockbuster Amnesty International report 10 days ago that condemned the system of camps and prisons that hold Letts and 56,000 other men, women and children, dozens of whom are Canadian. All of them, Amnesty points out, “are facing systematic violations and dying in large numbers due to inhumane conditions.”

 

Although the Federal Court of Appeal denied the request to repatriate Letts and three other men in May, 2023, Justice Stratas pointed out: “In a number of other cases the Government of Canada has surmounted the practical and legal obstacles and has successfully repatriated Canadian citizens from camps in northeastern Syria… these reasons should not be taken to discourage the Government of Canada from making efforts on its own to bring about that result.”

 

Following up on that point, Jackman reminded the Ministers: “Unfortunately, the record clearly shows that almost a full year on from that decision, no steps have been taken by your government to advance Jack’s repatriation. If that glaring human rights failure is due to application of the Policy Framework, it simply underscores how flawed that framework is. It should be abandoned and the government should instead proceed with life-saving repatriation for Jack, all other Canadian citizens held in Northeast Syria, and the non-Canadian mothers of Canadian children who remain detained there.”

 

Those mothers and their children, represented by lawyer Asiya Hirji, were re-traumatized both by the early April decision denying them temporary resident permits to accompany their children, as well as by the ultimatum to give up their children, one to which they were required to respond in less than 30 hours. Both released statements through their Ms Hirji.

 

“I reiterate my confirmation back in March and in June [2023], that I'm not declining any travel assistance for my children whatsoever,” said one of the moms. “I’m rather earnestly requesting that I, as their mother, accompany them. I'm only confirming that I'm a mother. Requesting to forcibly separate my underaged and already-distressed children from their mother is primitive and uncivil in my opinion. Raising the issue with my children has not been an easy one. It was a harrowing experience and often left them overwrought for weeks.  A country that cares about its citizens shouldn't repeatedly and unnecessarily put them through this torment.”

 

The other mother shared with her lawyer this statement: "My kids cried when I told them the news for two reasons: first, when they pictured themselves away from me in a foster care or whatever. Second, that Canada will do it for the third time, that they come to the camp and intentionally rescue more people but not them. İt hurts them the most that they see there is an opportunity, but it’s not for them for some reason, and they don't understand. We have seen so many countries (i.e Spain, France, Ireland) did rescue their own citizen children including their mothers, as it's their right to not be separated from their mothers, but this is what Canada is denying for these small kids unmercifully. They are so disappointed and feel their life doesn't count at all. My kids are dying slowly. What is the Canadian government plan for these kids? To just die in the desert? There should be a solution based on human  rights.”

 

Sally Lane, Jack Letts’ Canadian mother, hand delivered a copy of the letter to Global Affairs Canada on April 29. “This letter also reminds Ms. Joly that the Federal Court concluded there is absolutely no evidence of wrongdoing on the part of my son or any of the other detainees whose cases were before the Federal Court. Last week we were astounded to learn that Canada had refused return for a disabled, traumatized Canadian mother of 6 children simply because they didn’t have anything to charge her with. I am concerned that this is the same Orwellian nonsense being used to prevent Jack’s return.”

 

Lane, who authored a book about her struggle to free her son, recently returned from a 9-city speaking tour. “Everywhere I spoke, Canadians were horrified to learn about the atrocious misbehaviour of their government officials, their so-called intelligence agencies, and some of their courts, all of whom have given a seal of approval to the arbitrary detention and torture of their citizens even as they spout their alleged respect for rule of law and human rights. I honestly feel like we’ve been dropped into a Kafkaesque rabbit hole.”

 

Currently, the Supreme Court of Canada, which refused to even hear an appeal from Letts and three other men last November, is deciding whether it will accept a rare reconsideration appeal given the grave human rights abuses faced by the male detainees as well as the important unresolved legal issues about the obligations Canada has to its endangered citizens abroad. 

 

In addition, a judicial review is planned for the refusal of Temporary Resident Permits for the mothers of Canadian children.

 

“We are extremely disappointed that Canada refuses to honour the integrity of these family units, and continues to insist on a policy of forced child separation, which in practice means the children could come here, go into foster care, become separated from their siblings, and likely never again see the only adult who has cared for them since birth,” says one of the lawyers for the mothers, Asiya Hirji. “Telling mothers arbitrarily detained for five years that the price of freedom for your children is for you to remain forever jailed 9,000 kilometres away from them is cruel, inhumane, and not at all in keeping with Canada’s domestic and international human rights obligations towards women, children, and the right to family.”

 

Information: Stop Canadian Involvement in Torture, tasc@web.ca, 613-300-9536

Friday, April 12, 2024

Canada Denies Entry to Mothers of Canadian Children Detained in Northeast Syria

 

(Children in the Al-Hol concentration camp in Northeast Syria. Photo from Al Sabah) 

 

April 12, 2024 --  Fourteen months after two mothers arbitrarily detained in Northeast Syrian prison camps applied for urgent Temporary Resident Permits that would allow them to come to Canada with their detained Canadian children, Canada has said they are not welcome.

 

                  “We are extremely disappointed that Canada refuses to honour the integrity of these family units, and continues to insist on a policy of forced child separation, which in practice means the children could come here, go into foster care, become separated from their siblings, and likely never again see the only adult who has cared for them since birth,” says one of the lawyers for the mothers, Asiya Hirji. “Telling mothers arbitrarily detained for five years that the price of freedom for your children is for you to remain forever jailed 9,000 kilometres away from them is cruel, inhumane, and not at all in keeping with Canada’s domestic and international human rights obligations towards women, children, and the right to family.”

 

                  Hirji will be filing for a judicial review of the negative decisions, which came on the heels of the March 19 Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic’s  damning indictment of the international failure to repatriate some 30,000 detained children, Punishing the Innocent: Ending Violations against Children in Northeast Syrian Arab Republic (https://www.ohchr.org/sites/default/files/documents/hrbodies/hrcouncil/coisyria/policypapersieges29aywar/2024-03-18-punishing-innocent.pdf). That report found: "The failure to provide even basic medical care, water or food to interned women and children also constitutes a violation of the prohibition of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, which may amount to a war crime,” adding, "Releasing, repatriating and reintegrating children into their home communities, with their mothers, is long overdue.”

 

The rejection of the permits also goes against the clearly enunciated policies of major Canadian allies. On March 15 the governments of France, Germany, the United Kingdom and the United States released a joint statement (https://www.state.gov/joint-statement-on-the-occasion-of-the-13th-anniversary-of-the-syrian-uprising/) calling on "the international community to rally around the remaining tasks to ensure durable solutions” for the detainees held in prisons and detention camps in Northeast Syria. The U.S. has repeatedly called on its partners to engage in repatriation, with President Joe Biden offering resources to assist in the return of foreign nationals detained in Northeast Syria.

 

There are currently 9 Canadian men, 3 women and 13 Canadian children who are still detained in Northeast Syria; 26 have been returned in seven separate instances. The detained women are non-Canadian mothers of Canadian children who have all applied for temporary resident permits.

 

“Once again, Canada has failed its ‘never again’ promise with respect to forced separation of children from their families,” says Matthew Behrens of Stop Canadian Involvement in Torture, which leads a campaign for repatriation. “We have a shameful legacy of that in this land. We also have a shameful ongoing legacy of racism and Islamophobia, and the rejection of these women with secret, unsourced allegations that may well emanate from torture is clearly illegal and morally reprehensible. Canadian officials have never interviewed these women, and instead rely  on the standard demonization we have seen over the past quarter century of racial and religious profiling in which exaggerated, unfounded claims have contributed to illegal detention and torture. If there is evidence of wrongdoing, you don’t compound that by keeping these traumatized women and children in jail forever. Bring them here, along with the remaining detained men, and allow them an opportunity to answer their secret accusers. The notion that they might pose a threat after all they have been though is ridiculous.”

 

Notably, the adult Canadian women who have returned to Canada have been subjected to peace bonds and, in one case, criminal charges. “Despite all the fear-mongering before their return, the sky has not fallen in, those mothers and children are receiving counseling and health care and education, and the only ones upset about this are the so-called security agencies whose dire but ultimately false allegations have once again proven to be baseless,” Behrens continued.

 

“Canada has made an international commitment to end arbitrary detention, yet how can it trumpet that principle on the international stage when immigration decisions like this are perpetuating that very injustice?” Hirji asks. “In addition, Canadian officials know that one of the children, age 7, faces going blind unless he can get emergency eye surgery. Another child was recently bitten by one of the wild dogs that terrorize the prison camp, and another kid recently broke his hand and had to wait five days in excruciating pain before he was able to get any medical attention. How can Canada look the other way in the face of that reality?”

 

In a statement released through communication with Hirji, one of the mothers said: “I feel very sad and broken hearted. We had so much hope that the Canadian government would approve our file after sitting on it for 15 months but unfortunately, they are harsh and heartless to me and my children. We have lived for years in a detention camp under pieces of cloth, suffering from cold, hunger, poverty, poor medical care. Our kids’ small bodies cannot take any more smoke coming from the oil fields that affects their lungs, their hearts, their bodies, their bones. I haven’t lost hope, because I trust in the kindness and justice of the Canadian people themselves.”

 

A reconsideration appeal in the cases of four detained Canadian men was submitted to the Supreme Court of Canada on March 15. The Court has yet to decide whether it will reconsider its November 2023 refusal to hear that case.

 

 

 

 

  



Friday, April 5, 2024

Ghosts of None is Too Many Haunt Gaza Temporary Residence Policy


By Matthew Behrens

Next month marks the 85th anniversary of one of the most shameful episodes in Canadian history. In 1939, Mackenzie King's government refused to allow the oceanliner St. Louis dock in Halifax after it had been turned away from Cuba and the US. Its 937 Jewish passengers were forced back to Europe, leading to the deaths of 254 in what many saw as a plausible case of impending genocide.

As documented in the landmark Irving Abella/Harold Troper book None is Too Many (named for a bureaucrat’s infamous answer to the question of how many Jews should be admitted to Canada), the Prime Minister wrote “we must seek to keep this part of the Continent free from unrest and from too great an intermixture of foreign strains of blood.” 

The language employed by immigration officials of the day defamed Jewish refugees as an unassimilable people who “never cease their agitation,” “cannot comply with the law”, and “are so unpopular almost everywhere.” Such phrases bear striking resemblance to the ramped up xenophobic rhetoric of those who oppose welcoming Palestinian Canadians’ family members trying to flee starvation and a plausible case of genocide in Gaza.

Justin Trudeau’s 2018 apology for this World War 2 scandal sought to “ensure that its lessons are never forgotten,” but it was almost impossible not to draw  “None is Too Many” comparisons when Immigration Minister Marc Miller conceded before a March 20 House of Commons committee that not a single person had been successfully extricated under the Gaza special measures program he announced three months earlier.

While Miller has publicly shared his frustration and anger over what he admits is a failed program – a tiresome Trudeau-era performative replacement for easily enacted policy fixes – he constantly blames everyone except himself. Indeed, it strains credibility that after Canada was able to facilitate the exit from Gaza of 839 citizens and permanent residents in November and December, Miller has been unable to get a single Canadian’s sister, uncle, niece, spouse or parent across the same Rafah border crossing since the start of 2024.

 If, as Miller claims, Israeli and Egyptian officials are the roadblock, how does he account for the daily crossing of hundreds of Palestinians with family in the US, Italy, Australia and Turkey? Miller also cannot blame anyone but his own department for the failure to arrange travel documents and immediate transit for the hundreds of traumatized, Canada-connected Palestinians stranded for months in Egypt.

 Miller insists his program is intended to save lives yet, despite the ample headline evidence screaming for urgency, he seems unable or unwilling to speed up his snail’s pace bureaucracy and lift the prohibitive cap on program applications.

At the March hearing, Miller’s officials testified that over 2,300 loved ones of Gazan Canadians were waiting to receive the infamous codes that, upon issue by a parsimonious immigration bureaucracy, allow for the submission of life-saving temporary residence applications. Asked why so many remained in limbo, Miller replied that up to 250 codes per week would now be issued. But at that rate, many facing daily bombardment and starvation would have to wait up to 10 weeks (on top of the 10 weeks they’ve already been waiting) when they should be able to apply immediately.

Scores of people have been killed waiting for those codes, and Miller’s slow as you go approach is playing a game of Russian Roulette with the lives of Canadians’ Gaza family members.  

The number of Palestinian applications currently being processed, according to Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada, is 986, 50 more than the numbers who were exiled on the St. Louis in 1939. While Ukrainians who had far more options to flee the Russian invasion saw their million-plus temporary residence applications processed within 14 days, Palestinians still waiting to be safely reunited with Canadian family cannot help but wonder if they’ve inherited this generation’s unfortunate “None is Too Many” mantle.


Tuesday, March 26, 2024

Families of Canadians Detained in Northeast Syria Ask Supreme Court for Reconsideration of Appeal



 

 OTTAWA - Following the Supreme Court of Canada’s mid-November refusal to hear the appeal of four Canadian men arbitrarily detained for up to 7 years under dire conditions in Northeast Syria, their families and legal team are taking the rare step of seeking a reconsideration and full hearing before the country’s highest court.

 

“These men face ongoing cruelty and indefinite detention under the threat of death. Canada’s refusal to repatriate them gives rise to legal issues of public importance,” reads the appeal brief filed on March 15, 2024. “The circumstances in which these men find themselves are of a rare severity, yet the Court of Appeal’s ruling [rejecting repatriation] leaves them with no assurance of any effort on the part of their government to assist them, even though it is the only actor that can help them. The hopelessness of their situation is itself a trigger of deep psychological pain.”

 

The timing of the appeal dovetails with significant international developments. On March 15 the governments of France, Germany, the United Kingdom and the United States released a joint statement (https://www.state.gov/joint-statement-on-the-occasion-of-the-13th-anniversary-of-the-syrian-uprising/) calling on "the international community to rally around the remaining tasks to ensure durable solutions” for the detainees held in prisons and detention camps in Northeast Syria. The U.S. has repeatedly called on its partners to engage in repatriation, with President Joe Biden offering resources to assist in the return of foreign nationals detained in Northeast Syria.

 

On March 19, the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic published a damning indictment of the failure to repatriate children, Punishing the Innocent: Ending Violations against Children in Northeast Syrian Arab Republic (https://www.ohchr.org/sites/default/files/documents/hrbodies/hrcouncil/coisyria/policypapersieges29aywar/2024-03-18-punishing-innocent.pdf), which found "The failure to provide even basic medical care, water or food to interned women and children also constitutes a violation of the prohibition of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, which may amount to a war crime,” adding, "Releasing, repatriating and reintegrating children into their home communities, with their mothers, is long overdue.”


There are currently 9 Canadian men, 4 women and 13 children who are still detained in Northeast Syria; 26 have been returned in seven separate instances. Three of the women are non-Canadian mothers of Canadian children who have applied for temporary resident permits.

 

Sally Lane, mother of the longest held Canadian detainee, Jack Letts, declared that, “Right now, we have an immoral stalemate. The Federal Court of Appeal says this is a government matter, while the government refuses to act unless ordered to do so by the courts. While both sides argue over who bears responsibility, the detainees are slowly dying. Does Canada really expect family members to shrug their shoulders and just accept the fact our loved ones are going to die in a foreign prison? It’s shocking the government has been allowed to get away with this inhuman outrage for so long.”

 

According to Matthew Behrens of Stop Canadian Involvement in Torture, which leads a public campaign for repatriation, “there’s over a year’s worth of compelling new evidence that was not before the court when this matter was first heard in late 2022. The Supreme Court’s refusal to hear their appeal abandoned the detainees to exile even as Canada is implicated in the mistreatment of these Canadians. Ottawa has refused to repatriate them when asked to do so by their jailers, which is a violation of the Geneva Convention and its protocols.” 

 

Much of that new evidence is contained in a detailed affidavit by Alex Neve, a Senior Fellow at the University of Ottawa’s Graduate School of Public and International Affairs and former Secretary General of Amnesty International Canada. Neve was part of a civil society delegation led by Senator Kim Pate that traveled to the region last August, meeting with Kurdish officials and several of the men, in addition to visiting women and children detained in the Al Roj prison camp. The appeal clearly points out that the delegation could have received the men from their Kurdish detainers if the Canadian government had authorized them to do so, but it had refused.

 

“Canada’s refusal to let the civil society delegation represent it for the prisoner handover is part of its pattern of declining to take up feasible solutions for protecting the Applicants and enabling them to return to their country of citizenship,” the brief points out. “Canada had maintained before the Federal Court that repatriation could only occur if a Canadian government official attended in northeast Syria. This is not so.”

 

As indicated in the January 2023 ruling by Federal Court Justice Brown that ordered repatriation, no evidence has ever been presented publicly that would implicate the men in any illegal or violent activities.

 

The reconsideration brief reminds the Supreme Court of this, noting “Canada has presented no evidence of the particular political, religious or ideological views of these men that would make them a threat to Canada. The evidence indicates that Canada has exercised its discretion to repatriate women and children in the same circumstances, leaving the only distinction between these Applicants and those repatriated to be age and gender.”

 

Neve’s affidavit outlines the significant health concerns of those detained, the ongoing lack of Canadian consular access (and lack of access to legal counsel and family contact), unending FBI interrogations of the men (for whom their families did not even have proof of life when the court proceedings were initiated), the complete lack of any legal process in NE Syria that the men could access to challenge their arbitrary detention, the detainees’ willingness to face any allegations that might exist against them in a fair and transparent Canadian court proceeding, and the rapidly deteriorating security environment in the region as the US plans a military withdrawal from NE Syria by year’s end.

 

“Our delegation’s concerns about ongoing human rights violations experienced by Canadian prisoners held in NE Syria are heightened by the fact that the Canadian government continues to maintain the position that it is not prepared to arrange their repatriation to Canada,” Neve writes. “Our delegation’s assessment, on the basis of the information we gathered during our mission to NE Syria in late August, is that unless the Canadian government takes steps to facilitate the repatriation of Canadian male prisoners held in NE Syria to Canada, where they can be tried if evidence supports bringing charges, these men face the prospect of an indeterminate and indefinite period of continuing arbitrary and unlawful detention without access to medical care, and without charge or trial, in contravention of international human rights standards that are binding on Canada and are also reflected in the provisions of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.”

 

Also included in the application is a year’s worth of public statements made by Prime Minister Trudeau, Global Affairs Minister Melanie Joly and other officials that provide the impression that the government believes it has a responsibility to help its citizens in perilous situations abroad. Its refusal to do so for the Northeast Syria cases is, according to Neve, “either disingenuous, represents a conscious decision to select only some Canadians as deserving of its assistance, or reflects a developing expansive, but inconsistently applied understanding of its obligations towards its citizens” under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

 

Indeed, in an October 30, 2023 speech, Global Affairs Canada Minister Melanie Joly stated: “400 Canadians are trapped in Gaza, they are living in fear and despair. As a government, we have a duty to bring them to safety.” 

 

While such a recognition of Canada’s obligation is an important step, advocates point out, they question why that same obligation does not extend to the Canadians in northeast Syria, who similar live in fear and despair. 

 

“Ultimately, Canada only acts when the courts or threat of court action requires it to do so,” explains Behrens. “In almost every incidence of prior repatriations, it was the threat of going to court that made a difference to bring home 26 women and children. We need the Supreme Court to responsibly exercise its role here and uphold the human rights of these long-suffering arbitrary detainees.” 

 

As the Supreme Court examines the reconsideration brief, other nations dealing with the issue of repatriation will no doubt be paying close attention as well. As the brief points out, “This Court is at the apex of the Canadian judicial system. Its refusal to hear the Applicants’ appeal constitutes a failure of its guardianship role. This is compounded in the international context where the issue of a state’s responsibility to assist a severely distressed and vulnerable citizen is recognized as an evolving area of international human rights law. Other states and international agencies are grappling with the question of whether a state has a positive obligation to repatriate its citizens where this is possible and where not to do so leaves them subject to cruel treatment. The failure of this Court to hear the appeal constitutes a failure of the Court to fulfill the important role it plays in the development of human rights internationally.”

Tuesday, March 5, 2024

End Arbitrary Detention of Canadian Muslims in NE Syria; Ontario Speaking and Book Launch Tour

 

A Book Launch and Discussion tour on the obstacles preventing the repatriation from Northeast Syria of over two dozen arbitrarily detained Canadian Muslim men, women, and children.
With:
Sally Lane, whose son Jack Letts has been wrongfully defamed by an inflammatory UK media and illegally held almost 7 years under conditions the UN calls “akin to torture”
Matthew Behrens of Stop Canadian Involvement in Torture, who has worked closely with the targets of Canadian and U.S. “national security” repression for over 25 years.
 
Background
Guantanamo in the Desert – where 50,000 Muslims are off-shored in NE Syria, beyond reach of law & rights, respect & dignity. Over two dozen Muslim Canadians – men, women & kids – are illegally detained there under conditions the UN calls akin to torture because Ottawa either refuses to repatriate them or has offered to repatriate children only if they are forcibly separated from their mothers. There is no clean water, nutritious food or proper medical care. The men’s prison cells are packed with bone-thin prisoners, many with amputated limbs.
In January, 2023, a Federal Court judge called on Ottawa to repatriate them, noting: “Canadians are dying or at risk of dying every day this matter is adjourned.” Over one year later, Canada still refuses, going all the way to the Supreme Court to block their return, thereby participating in the illegal practice of forced exile. 

Ottawa, February 21, 7 pm, https://www.facebook.com/events/1039243827369411

Kingston, February 27, 5:30 pm, https://www.facebook.com/events/1537265773722701

Toronto, March 16, 7 pm, Friends Meeting House, 60 Lowther, https://www.facebook.com/events/922562202528281

Guelph, March 17, 2 pm, The Bookshelf, 41 Quebec Street  https://www.facebook.com/events/1049528946144347

Kitchener-Waterloo, March 17, 7 pm, Grand River Unitarian Church, 299 Sydney St. South,  https://www.facebook.com/events/688772343209297

London, March 18, 6 pm, London Muslim Mosque, 151 Oxford St. West, https://www.facebook.com/events/3294474540845662

Hamilton, March 19, 7 pm, Melrose United Church, 86 Homewood Ave.,  https://www.facebook.com/events/1107865954001538

Perth, Brockville, Almonte, Arnprior (April dates TBA)