Canada to repatriate six women, 13 children from Syrian detention, lawyer says

By Jim Bronskill, The Canadian Press

A lawyer for six Canadian women and 13 children being held in Syrian camps says the federal government has agreed to help bring them home.

Lawyer Lawrence Greenspon said a “mutually acceptable” agreement was reached Thursday with Global Affairs Canada to repatriate the 19 Canadians.

The Canadians are among the many foreign nationals in Syrian camps run by Kurdish forces that reclaimed the war-torn region from the extremist Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.

Family members of the women and children, as well as those of four men, have been arguing in Federal Court that the government must arrange for their return, saying that refusing to do so violates the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Greenspon said in an interview that as a result of the newly reached agreement, the applications from the six women and 13 children are being discontinued, but the cases of the four men remain before the court.

The men include Jack Letts, whose parents have waged a public campaign to get the federal government to come to his aid.

Justice Henry Brown is expected to rule in the Federal Court case early this year.

The cases of one woman and two young girls that had been included in the court action are also being halted, as they are no longer detained in any of the camps in northeastern Syria, and their current whereabouts are unknown.

Kimberly Polman, who had been part of the court case, was repatriated to Canada in October. Her case is therefore being discontinued as well, Greenspon said.

Details of the newly reached agreement with the government, including the time frame for returning the 19 Canadians, are confidential, Greenspon said.

Revealing information about the timing of the effort could pose security concerns, he added.

Global Affairs Canada had no immediate comment Thursday.

Greenspon said he does not know what fate awaits the pending returnees.

Polman, who had married an ISIL member, was granted bail in British Columbia pending a peace bond hearing.

If there is evidence any of the women has done something wrong, the Crown has the means to prosecute them, Greenspon said.

“But we don’t know at this point. We have no idea as to which, if any, of the women are going to be facing prosecution.”

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