Wednesday, March 22, 2023

“Unnecessary” Muslims: Ottawa Appeals to Prolong Torture of Canadians Detained in Syria

The Federal Court of Appeal awaits arguments on whether Canada can continue to ensure four Canadian Muslim men remain arbitrarily detained forever under conditions akin torture. One judge notes "Canadians are dying or at risk of dying every day this matter is adjourned.”

By Matthew Behrens

            On February 12, 2023, the Government of Canada chose to prolong the torturous conditions endured by four Canadian Muslim men arbitrarily detained in northeast Syria. By launching an appeal against a Federal Court repatriation order which concluded the four had for years been “imprisoned against their will without charge or trial,” Ottawa sought to extinguish the Charter rights of Canadians who, according to Federal Court Judge Henry Brown, “are dying or at risk of dying every day this matter is adjourned.”


            In an equally disturbing development, the Federal Court of Appeal agreed on March 14 to place a stay on further repatriation efforts pending the outcome of the appeal, to be heard March 27. When weighing whether irreparable harm would come to the Canadian government if it were forced to repatriate four Canadian men held under conditions the UN describes as “akin to torture,” the Court of Appeal shamefully sided with Ottawa based on the government’s paper-thin House of Cards arguments, built on an astounding collection of lies, unfounded speculation, and an unspoken but very clearly enunciated Islamophobia (detailed below). “There may be additional harm suffered by [the detainees] as a result of the delay, but that delay will be short,” the Court of Appeal callously concluded.


            In language normally reserved for nuclear waste, the appeal paints the uncharged detainees as an alleged threat to be “mitigated”. They are “unnecessary” human beings unworthy of assistance. Despite fully knowing for years the dire conditions of these arbitrarily detained Canadians – and despite the repeated pleas of US officials, including President Joe Biden, to repatriate all the detained foreign nationals in northeast Syria – Canadian government lawyers argue that repatriations should only occur if “absolutely necessary.”


            Canada’s Orwellian appeal employs apocalyptic language while claiming that keeping these long-suffering men under brutal conditions is actually in their best interests since efforts to secure their release “could in some way result in harm to” the detainees. Ironically, on January 19, 2023, the day before the original repatriation order was released, the federal government confirmed a settlement to repatriate 19 women and children who had originally been connected to the same court case. Justice Brown was quick to point out in his decision that “the legal principles applicable to the Canadian men are the same as those applicable to the Canadian women and children.”


            This discriminatory attempt to separate the men from the women and children comes on the heels of a concerted public relations effort to undermine the factual integrity of the landmark January 20 court order. Led by CBC and Globe and Mail reporters, a series of grossly inaccurate and inciting stories flew in the face of the publicly available court record. In the worst tradition of Islamophobic writing, they tarred all Canadian detainees with the same inflammatory brush, with headlines screaming about returning “Isis members” coming to terrorize Yazidi refugees while reviving long-dismissed fallacies about the potential for an international tribunal in northeast Syria. Despite numerous complaints to the CBC Ombudsperson about the grossly inflammatory pieces, the media outlet refused to end its scare-mongering.



Contrasting Approaches to Different Detainees

            The appeal announcement also followed the astounding late January Global Affairs Canada ultimatum delivered to four detained women with Canadian children in the prison camps. Ironically, on the same day Canada announced its first representative to combat Islamophobia, the detained Muslim women were directly told to surrender their children or remain there with them forever because Canada would never come for them again. As a nation built on the forced separation of Indigenous children from their families, this latest Canadian move certainly ran afoul of its much-trumpeted “never again” promises, and contravened its legally binding commitments under the Convention on the Rights of the Child.


            The January and February legal and media attacks against this relatively small group of detainees – the majority of them children – contributed to their ongoing banishment in an off-shored “Guantanamo in the desert” that seriously troubled Federal Court Justice Brown, who wrote on January 20 that “there is no known offence in Canada that carries with it exile or banishment as a penal consequence.” Yet both by its actions and conscious inaction, exile or banishment were plainly the result for Canadians stuck in northeast Syria.


            It’s all a stark contrast to Canada’s well-publicized, robust efforts to secure the release of illegally detained white non-Muslim Canadians Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig, who were always afforded the presumption of innocence by Canadian media while held by the Chinese regime. Canadian government efforts to free the two men included leading a 57-nation initiative against arbitrary detention. Mere weeks after the detention of “The Two Michaels,” then GAC Minister Chrystia Freeland told reporters that Canada was working with a broad range of allies on the issue and had secured support statements from the USA, UK and European Union, and that “we absolutely believe this is not only a Canadian issue,” but “an issue that concerns our allies.”


In the case of the detainees in northeast Syria, an affidavit from Global Affairs Canada’s official Julie Sunday tucked into the government’s appeal brief declares that compliance with the court order means her department “may be required to leverage diplomatic relationships with allies in negotiating and/or implementing conditions of release, which we would only wish to do if absolutely necessary.” 


What was deemed absolutely necessary for the two Michaels is now viewed as not applicable for these children, women and men, Muslims who have been so demonized that human rights reports on Canadian children who are no nutritionally deficient that they have been forced to eat sand are dismissed by government lawyers as irrelevant and improper evidence. As one “extremism expert” shared with the International Crisis Group: “The problem is that we’ve expended all this effort promoting [what has become] the Western counter-terrorism paradigm and dehumanizing these people to mobilise against the ISIS threat. Now we have to humanize the population to convince countries that they can and should get them home.”


Misunderstanding the Detainees

What can account for such utterly different responses between the high-profile campaign to release the Two Michaels and Ottawa’s refusal to end the arbitrary detention of Muslim Canadians? Freeland’s global appeal went out a fast two weeks after the Michaels were arrested by a country that is not considered friendly to Canada. For Canadian detainee Jack Letts, it will soon be 71 months of arbitrary detention by a Canadian ally in the region that has repeatedly asked Canada to come and take its citizens home. In addition, the Federal Court of Appeal has just told Letts and the other men that they need to continue sucking it up because to do otherwise might bring some undefined harm to Canada’s international relations.


 Perhaps the “only if absolutely necessary” standard employed here is because the four Canadian men are Muslim, and a lazy media, racist commentariat, and spy  agency-worshipping national security academic-industrial complex  (one of whose most high-profile adherents used to bake cakes celebrating the drone assassinations of Muslims) have refused to engage with any serious inquiry into the diverse humanity of those detained under conditions that former Guantanamo Bay detainees have called far worse than anything they ever endured. 


Some of these detainees are among the most misunderstood groups of people on the planet, largely due to racist assumptions about their religious faith, alleged political beliefs, and geographic location. Many were fleeing or opposed ISIS when detained, or were trafficked by agencies like Canadian spies CSIS; others were in the region for humanitarian purposes; some were intrigued by the many videos promising a utopian paradise only to find out differently on day one and then being unable to escape. Hundreds of Yazidi refugees are in these prison camps too, unable to return home. Yes, there are no doubt adherents of Daesh who remain too (and they should be held accountable for whatever crimes they may have committed), but studies by the likes of Save the Children and Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) show they are a minority.


In November 2022, the widely respected, Noble Peace Prize-winning MSF found that “ideological demography of the camp’s population is far more diverse than narratives regarding their affiliations with IS suggest. Many of the camp’s population report having been displaced multiple times as a result of conflict. Far from identifying with IS ideology, many say they were arrested at checkpoints when trying to flee IS-controlled territories. Many report that they were living in areas that later came under the control of IS and were forced to leave their homes on IS orders. They say that if they chose to stay, they risked being bombed by coalition forces or being accused of supporting IS by dint of their location.”


Similarly, the globally respected Save the Children (STC) notes that these detainees “are often portrayed in the media as monolithic adherents to ISIS ideologies and their children described as ‘ISIS children.’ In reality, the population of the camps is diverse and many of their personal stories are complex.” STC also points out that there are hundreds of Yazidi women and children in the camps “who were captured and enslaved by ISIS as part of a genocide against the ethno-religious group.” Other women found themselves under Daesh control through “misapprehension, circumstance or coercion.” Yet all are tarred with the same “ISIS-linked” brush when in reality, those with links to ISIS are reportedly a relatively small minority.


Colonial Missionaries and Repatriation

 Despite such well-documented studies, amongst some supporters of repatriation, there are disturbing, unexamined attitudes that reek of white saviour colonial missionaries who view the detainees as depraved savages needing the West’s so-called civilizing influences. Their arguments start not from the assumption that these are long-suffering human beings who have inherent rights (including a presumption of innocence), but rather that they are dangerous reprobates for whom repatriation, accompanied by a potent cocktail of terrorism peace bonds, prosecution, and surveillance, is sought only as a last resort for our own protection. It’s almost a begrudging argument that reinforces white supremacy and a bloated sense of colonial self-virtue: we of the Great White West have fair and unbiased legal systems who will take back these deranged souls, much as we despise them, and place them somewhere where they cannot hurt anyone. Such a “we are better than them” position celebrates “our” (read white) humanity rooted in “rule of law” as we rescue them from “over there,” the heart of darkness territory where they cannot get a fair trial.


            One such repatriation supporter made the wholly unsubstantiated claim that these detainees are “Canadians who have behaved abominably and acted stupidly and done things that are illegal.” As early as 2018, that same individual said of the nutritionally deficient children forced to eat sand, the women who were trafficked into the region, and the tortured men: “They’re our mess. We need to take responsibility for it and protect Canadians as well as the rest of the world from these people.”


            But where is the evidence that we need protection from them, or that any of these Canadians have been involved in wrongdoing? As the Federal Court of Canada noted in it repatriation decision, not even the government of Canada alleges illegality or  involvement in terrorism on the part of these detainees.


            Another repatriation supporter told Maclean’s that “I don’t care about the adults” and called the detainees “trash.” Shockingly, they declared without evidence to CBC Power and Politics: “These people left Canada, they were radicalized here, travelled abroad, they’ve committed atrocities against others.” Yet within the same breath, the individual said: “We don’t have a good sense of the evidence that we have against any of these individuals.”


            Who gets to say such atrocious things on a national news program? Where is the interviewer who pauses and asks, “Have you seen any evidence of what you allege?” Where is the accountability for casually applying such dangerous labels to long-suffering detainees?


            This white-framing of the issue of the detained Canadian Muslims is premised on a sickening calculation, that these individuals are simultaneously sad sack individuals – women and children who need to be rescued despite being less than human because of their alleged “choices” – and male Super Muslims, hard-wired and indoctrinated to kill and pillage at the first opportunity, primed to take down Western civilization despite years of torture and incommunicado detention.


Home-Grown Islamophobic Stereotypes

Such Islamophobic stereotypes are baked into so-called Western Culture, as noted by books like Jack Shaheen’s Reel Bad Arabs, which analyzes over 900 pre-9/11  films demonizing Arabs and Muslims (a number that has no doubt doubled since). The notion that Arab Muslims are addicted to violence and biologically fated to fall prey to the first extremist preacher who comes to town is reflected in the words of one grudging repatriation supporter who says things like “I think we are creating a circumstance where we are potentially creating a second generation of ISIS the longer we leave them there.”


            Those stereotypes are also given life time and again via the assumption of guilt and deference to a government which has consistently applied Islamophobic policies and lied about Muslim Canadians detained abroad (as documented by two judicial inquiries). They were reflected in one repatriation supporter’s comments on Canadian detainee Jack Letts (who publicly opposed ISIS and was jailed three times for doing so). In addressing the inflammatory comments of then Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale about Jack Letts on the CBC, this repatriation supporter said “like you pointed out to the Minister, he’s satisfied that this individual is a terrorist, [so] there must be evidence there to support that.”


            Yet what have the past two decades shown other than that such unsubstantiated claims of state security threats by government officials must not be taken on faith, and they certainly cannot be casually thrown about given the very real harm it can cause to the individuals being so labeled? As noted above, if the Government of Canada truly believes these detainees are a threat, why was not a single scintilla of evidence presented at the Federal Court hearing to that effect (even during the two days when they could have shared such information during secret hearings)? It was something that truly struck Justice Brown, who 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.”


As the women and children come home at some unspecified time (and hopefully the men as well as non-Canadian mothers of Canadian kids) it is critical that “ISIS-linked” not be employed as a one-brush-tars-all title or headline. Justice O’Connor’s Commission of Inquiry into the Actions of Canadian Officials in Relation to Maher Arar noted “Labels have a way of sticking to individuals, reputations are easily damaged and when labels are inaccurate, serious unfairness to individuals can result.” Equally critical, “Written labels, particularly when no caveats are attached, have a way of sticking to an individual and then spreading to others and becoming the accepted fact or wisdom.”
            Among other findings, O’Connor reminds us that:

  • “The impact on an individual’s reputation of being called a terrorist in the national media is severe. As I have stated elsewhere, labels, even unfair and inaccurate ones, have a tendency to stick.”
  • “It is important that precision be used when attaching labels to individuals, particularly in terrorism-related investigations in these times. There is a danger that loose language can lead to unfair and misleading or erroneous conclusions.”
  • “Caution is also necessary with respect to the use of potentially emotive or inflammatory phrases. To say that someone is an ‘Islamic extremist’ or a ‘jihadist’ can open the door to a slipshod and casual process in which guilt is assigned by association.”
  • “The use of loose or imprecise language about an individual or an event can have serious and unintended consequences. Labels, even inaccurate ones, have a way of sticking.”

Labels not only erase an individual’s humanity, they also erase individualized histories. Indeed, our ahistorical culture, in which yesterday’s news is ancient history, fails to recall that thousands of people traveled to Syria a decade ago in support of the Arab spring and to support the victims of the brutal dictator Bashar al-Assad’s barrel bombs, torture centres, and scorched earth military campaigns. Others who actually believed the Daesh videos that promised a state free of discrimination and violence quickly found out it was all a lie, but faced death if they tried to leave. While such mistakes are normally forgiven or simply overlooked if, for example, Canadians travel abroad and join groups engaged in documented war crimes (from the Israeli “Defence” Forces to the Ukrainian military), that mercy rarely extends to Muslims.


An Appeal Built on Lies

Future law students will be astounded to read the poorly argued and unsubstantiated submissions government lawyers put together for an appeal that relies on one very big unspoken elephant in the room: the detainees are Muslims and, like other Canadian Muslims whose overseas detention and torture we have contributed to, we never want them to come home. Rather than strip them of citizenship, Ottawa’s approach is now to prevent them from exercising their rights of citizenship, a foundation of which is the right to enter Canada.

            It’s concerning that a stay was granted by a Federal Court of Appeal cognizant of the dangerous, life-threatening conditions faced by the Muslim detainees, a conclusion that may not have resulted had the detainees been born with names like, say, Michael. It’s also concerning that they did so based on a record replete with government lies, unfounded speculation, and Islamophobic assumptions.

            For example, government officials claim they will be unable to conduct normal assessments of returning Canadians before issuing travel documents, even though Brown wrote in his decision: “Simply put at the appropriate time the Applicants must be provided necessary travel documents and I will so declare…. it will not be ordered to proceed on a timeline that may in fact be counterproductive or otherwise unreasonable.”       

            One immigration official claims that if its foreign partners found out that travel documents had been issued to the detainees it could “damage Canada’s international reputation and our relationship with foreign partners.” Yet the issuance of documents in seven other cases of women and kids repatriated to Canada has not appeared to harm Canada’s relationships.  


            Government lawyers also kick irony to the curb by arguing that giving travel documents would “expose the applicant (detainees) to greater risk or worsening the applicant’s situation.” But it is unclear how after six years of enduring conditions akin to torture, a one-way ticket home could worsen a detainee’s life.


            Similarly, Global Affairs maintains, without an ounce of evidence, that “the order to request repatriation is likely to affect Canada’s foreign policy interests in ways that cannot be predicted.”  It’s a manifestly strange and untested long-shot theory, given that dozens of countries have repatriated their own citizens without upsetting the international order of state-to-state relations. In addition, such concerns were never raised when Canada went on a diplomatic offensive to repatriate the Two Michaels. Regardless, stay motions by law cannot be based on such spurious speculation unless, of course, the subject of the stay motion is a Muslim detainee, in which case, as scholar Sherene Razak points out in a recent book, “Nothing Has to Make Sense.”


            Despite the presence of 50,000 social workers in Canada, the government also argues that the repatriation order for four – count ’em, four – men would risk “drawing on specially trained staff from fields like social work and clinical health…proceeding with a rushed repatriation without sufficient staff, resources and preparation in place may significantly exacerbate the threat arising from some of these cases of return to Canada.”


            Yet even if one buys the unsubstantiated claim that any of these four men have some ideological rigidity clinging in their minds after years of torture, Canada’s own Public Safety agencies and so-called “counter-radicalization” networks have prepared for this eventuality for over a decade. Dr. Michael King of the Public Safety Canada-funded Organization for the Prevention of Violence told the Toronto Star that plans have been in place for five years in expectation of eventual repatriation. “We all have some experience with people returning from overseas, so that’s a good thing,” says King. “It’s no one’s first rodeo, but it’s going to be everyone’s biggest rodeo.” King notes the detainees are likely to hold a variety of experiences, beliefs and needs. “Some of these people will have disavowed the ideology a few hours after arriving in ISIS-controlled territory all those years ago and probably said, ‘This is the biggest error of my life,’ but it was unsafe to leave,” King said.

            Dr. Ghayda Hassan  coordinates a network that 5 years ago developed a “repatriation and reintegration” plan for returnees, “along with key partners such as youth protection and family services across the country. This plan was put into practice for the first time last fall upon the return of two Canadian citizens and two young children. The teams were present at the airport of arrival of these returnees to offer support for the returnee children, extended family members, as well as for the returned adults before and after their investigation and interrogation by security services. The teams are continuing to provide services to these returnee adults, children and extended family. The implementation has been deemed as a success by all involved partners.”

Dr. Hassan shared her concern that returnees may face with respect to stigma. “They will come back to face a society here that stigmatizes them because they’re still being considered by many people — sometimes quite wrongfully, actually — as terrorists,” Hassan said. “Many of them have been kind of drawn into this and mostly been victims, actually. Some may have been perpetrators, of course. I’m not denying that.”

Meanwhile, Global Affairs Canada incorrectly claimed in a sworn affidavit that previous Turkish military actions in the region have “stalled repatriation operations from the region.” However, according to the Rights and Security International (“RSI”) Global Repatriation Tracker and other open source material, 2023 is set to become a record breaking year for repatriations (during the first two months of 2023, repatriations have already outpaced the total for all of 2022, with a total of almost 800 so far.) An analysis of prior repatriation numbers dating back to 2019 reveals no significant impacts on repatriation, even during periods of heightened Turkish military violence in Northeast Syria.

Ultimately, the government relies on tired stereotypes, especially about the male detainees, An affidavit from Public Safety’s Sébastien Aubertin-Giguère paints the men as “Canadian Extremist Travelers” and despite the lack of any individualized evidence, declares “in general, CETs suspected of traveling to north-eastern Syria are believed to have had, at a minimum, direct experience with Daesh/ISIS, a listed terrorist organization, and direct experience with violent extremist ideology. They are highly likely to have acquired combat, weapons and terrorist training, and operational combat experiences while in Syria and Iraq, and are likely to have established international connections with likeminded individuals.”

While the only thing missing from Mr. Aubertin-Giguère’s affidavit is the eerie orientalist music that accompanies the slow-motion, gun-toting, stalking Muslim extremist featured on your neighbourhood movie screens and streaming platforms, it was also disingenuously sworn three weeks after Justice Brown noted that Canada raised no security concerns with respect to any of the men at the original hearing that took place the previous month.

It’s on such thin grounds that the Government of Canada will crow about protecting national security before the appeal court judges next Monday. As loved ones of the detainees wait with bated breath for the outcome of the Federal Court of Appeal hearing on March 27 and the non-Canadian mothers of Canadian kids pray that their temporary resident permit applications will be approved, it is clear that the Islamophobia that has underwritten Canada’s mistreatment of these Canadian men, women and children remains deeply stitched into the national discourse. We need radical surgery to remove it from the national consciousness as one step toward preventing further harm to those Canadians who, because of their faith, continue to be demonized, exiled, and tortured abroad.

During the month of Ramadan, a chain fast in support of repatriation is taking place, and individual fasters can sign up on free dates here:

The compelling memoir of Sally Lane’s 9-year struggle to bring her son Jack Letts home is also now available at

Those wishing to attend the virtual Court of Appeal Hearing on March 27 should write to and ask to register for the BOLOH hearing on March 27, ref. # A-32-23







Saturday, March 11, 2023

Ramadan Repatriation Chain Fast to Free the Canadian Captives March 23 to April 20, 2023

“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!)

Please pick a day to fast in support of immediately freeing and bringing home dozens of arbitrarily detained Canadian Muslim men, women, and children, including the longest-held detainee, 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.” Justice Henry Brown of the Federal Court stated in December: “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.

On January 20, 2023, the Federal Court of Canada ordered the government to repatriate 4 Canadian men illegally detained for as long as 6 years. The previous day, it agreed to bring home 19 women and children held under similarly appalling conditions. Almost two months later, none have been returned.


This should have occurred no later than February 15, 2023, the second anniversary of the Canadian-led Declaration Against Arbitrary Detention. But instead, the Government of Canada is appealing the decision, choosing to prolong the arbitrary detention under conditions akin to torture of Canadian children, women and men. It is also trying to forcibly separate some Canadian children from non-Canadian mothers instead of doing the right thing by keeping families intact, and issuing Temporary Resident Permits to those mothers.


Justice Brown declared in his January 20, 2023 decision that, as soon as reasonably possible, “Canada must make a formal request for their repatriation,” that the detainees “must be provided necessary travel documents,” and Canada be required to “appoint either a delegate or representative to accept their hand over.” He made these findings based on well-settled Supreme Court of Canada jurisprudence and Canada’s international treaty obligations “in the expectation the executive government will act in good faith as its counsel represented to the Court.”




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.  


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 blessed month of Ramadan because, as the UK human rights group CAGE reminds us, "The history of Islam is replete with stories of men and women facing imprisonment and abuse at the hands of oppressors.” 


Canada says it opposes Islamophobia, yet imposes institutional Islamophobia against these detainees. Among those imprisoned are mothers and fathers, as well as the sons and daughters of parents and grandparents who have worked for years to bring their loved ones home. 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.






All of the Canadians who went to Syria have been unjustly tarred with the same “national security” brush. None have been given a chance to defend themselves against these false accusations. As is happening with Canadians flocking to resist the Russian invasion of Ukraine, a small number of young Canadians travelled to Syria during the Assad regime’s war against the Syrian people. Some went to fight; some went for humanitarian reasons to help people suffering as a result of the civil war; some were trafficked; and some went on a ‘grand adventure’ or to escape racism and Islamophobia at home. Most believed they were going to help build a non-violent, utopian, Muslim society – a dream that proved both false and lethal for many. Some, like Jack Letts, opposed ISIS in the streets and were prosecuted for opposing them – a fact the Western media refuses to acknowledge.


Canada must stop relying on the media-generated, Islamophobic myths about these detainees as an excuse to perpetuate their misery (see a detailed analysis of Jack’s case at


Compare the way in which Canadian officials mistreat this group of emaciated, tortured souls with the Two Michaels, Canadians who were also arbitrarily detained, but in China. Despite being charged with serious (though clearly bogus) offences, the Two Michaels enjoyed (as they should have) a presumption of innocence in the eyes of Ottawa and the media. But 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. 




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.

a) Pick a day (or a series of days) to fast during Ramadan and email your name and town to 


b) A list of open dates and names is available at

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, #FreeThe44, Free the Canadian Captives, Canada Complicit in Arbitrary Detention, Obey The Court Order, Free the 40+ Canadian Captives, etc.) and share that image via social media, explaining why you are fasting on that day. Email us the image at 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 Marco Mendicino to explain why you are fasting and reinforce the demands listed above. 


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!


f. Attend the virtual appeal hearing on March 27 when Canada tries to stop the repatriation of its own citizens. Email for details.

Thanks for your support!


Stop Canadian Involvement in Torture 

Sample email 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!)



CC:  pam.damoff@parl.gc.carob.oliphant@parl.gc.cama ,,,,, ,


Dear Minister Joly,


I am fasting today as part of a Ramadan Chain Fast to free the Canadian captives illegally detained in NE Syria because you refuse to bring them home. You must drop your court appeal and make immediate arrangements to bring home these long suffering children, women and men.


The historic January 20, 2023 Federal Court ruling calling on you to repatriate four Canadian men illegally and arbitrarily detained in northeast Syria – and your own commitment made the day before to repatriate 19 women and children – means it is time to immediately  bring everyone home (including the Canadians not identified in the lawsuit and the non-Canadian mothers of Canadian children). This should have occurred no later than February 15, 2023, the second anniversary of the Canadian-led Declaration Against Arbitrary Detention.

Every day you fail to bring these long-suffering Canadians home, you perpetuate their arbitrary detention, forcing them to suffer conditions the UN calls akin to torture. You also increase their exposure to the risk posed by the ongoing bombings of the area by Turkish drones and fighter jets.  


Justice Henry Brown of the Federal Court stated in December: “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. 


Justice Brown declared in his January 20, 2023 decision that, as soon as reasonably possible, “Canada must make a formal request for their repatriation,” that the detainees “must be provided necessary travel documents,” and Canada be required to  “appoint either a delegate or representative to accept their hand over.” He made these findings based on well-settled Supreme Court of Canada jurisprudence and Canada’s international treaty obligations “in the expectation the executive government will act in good faith as its counsel represented to the Court.”


You can show good faith by not dragging this out for months and months in the same manner your government has looked the other way for years despite being called on to enact repatriation by the world’s leading human rights organizations, the United Nations, your U.S. State Dept. allies, President Joe Biden, a Parliamentary Committee, the Kurdish authorities who hold the detained Canadians, and tens of thousands of Canadians.


Canada has already repatriated 7 of its female and child citizens from the region. It 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. 


As Global Affairs Minister, you have already made an agreement to repatriate 19 additional women and children originally identified in the lawsuit. Adding the four men in Justice Brown’s order – where as he stated "the legal principles applicable to the Canadian men are the same as those applicable to the Canadian women and children” – should pose no problems. 

In addition, you must repatriate all the Canadians not identified in the lawsuit (as well as 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 delivered an ultimatum 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 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.


 “The primacy of the right to return to Canada is reinforced in Canadian law,” Brown writes in his 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 last year – “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. The Court has called on you to bring these Canadians home. I expect them to be home as soon as possible. 


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. On January 20, the Federal Court ordered Minister Joly to bring home four Canadian men arbitrarily detained in northeast Syria under conditions akin to torture. Ms Joly also agreed to bring home 19 women and kids. Two months later, they are still there and your government has appealed this order. I wanted to let you know I am fasting today in support of repatriation during the month of Ramadan. Given that she has ignored all prior requests to bring these long-suffering Canadians home, I am concerned that Minister Joly will do everything in her power to delay, avoid, and ultimately disregard this clear court order. The judge in the case said “Canadians are dying or at risk of dying every day this matter is adjourned.” I am calling on Ms. Joly to immediately bring everyone home – all Canadians and the non-Canadian mothers of Canadian children. Thank you.


 List of Fasters and Dates

Thursday March 23: Julie Lovely, Martin, Georgia, USA; Maryam Akram, Doha, Qatar; Jan Slakov, BC; Lee Morales, Doha, Qatar

Friday March 24: Mary Cowper-Smith, Prince Edward Island; Connie Pike, St. John's, Newfoundland & Labrador; Maryam Akram, Doha, Qatar; Lee Morales, Doha, Qatar

Saturday March 25: Maryam Akram, Doha, Qatar; Lee Morales, Doha, Qatar

Sunday March 26: Kim Koyama, Toronto, ON; Maryam Akram, Doha, Qatar; Lee Morales, Doha, Qatar

Monday March 27: Maureen McGahey, Perth, Ontario; Maryam Akram, Doha, Qatar; Lee Morales, Doha, Qatar

Tuesday March 28: Donna Morrison, Ottawa, Ontario; Murray Lumley, Toronto, ON; Maryam Akram, Doha, Qatar; Lee Morales, Doha, Qatar

Wednesday March 29      

Thursday March 30: Sandra Davies, Kingston, ON (on her 83rd birthday!); Maryam Akram, Doha, Qatar; Lee Morales, Doha, Qatar

Friday March 31

Saturday April 1

Sunday April 2

Monday April 3

Tuesday April 4:

Wednesday April 5

Thursday April 6

Friday April 7

Saturday April 8

Sunday April 9

Monday April 10

Tuesday April 11: Murray Lumley, Toronto, ON; Maryam Akram, Doha, Qatar; Lee Morales, Doha, Qatar

Wednesday April 12

Thursday April 13

Friday April 14

Saturday April 15: Maria Mars, Cookstown, Ontario; Maryam Akram, Doha, Qatar; Lee Morales, Doha, Qatar

Sunday April 16: Maria Mars, Cookstown, Ontario; Maryam Akram, Doha, Qatar; Lee Morales, Doha, Qatar

Monday April 17: Maria Mars, Cookstown, Ontario; Maryam Akram, Doha, Qatar; Lee Morales, Doha, Qatar

Tuesday April 18: Murray Lumley, Toronto, ON; Maryam Akram, Doha, Qatar; Lee Morales, Doha, Qatar

Wednesday April 19

Thursday April 20