Repatriation of Canadian detainees to Syria: Ottawa appeals decision
The majority of Canadians detained in Al-Hol camp in northeast Syria arrived in the war-torn country from from 2014. (File photo)
The Federal Court's decision ordering Ottawa to repatriate four Canadians detained in Syrian camps has been stayed pending court proceedings. call.
At the request of the Canadian government, the Federal Court of Appeal has agreed to grant a stay of execution until the case is heard, in less than two weeks.
The government had pleaded in the first instance that it had no obligation to repatriate Canadians, but it agreed to repatriate 6 women and 13 children who were part of the same query.
Ottawa is still required to initiate the repatriation process by establishing contact with the Kurdish forces who are holding the Canadians in an area they have recaptured from Daesh (Islamic State armed group).
The ruling underscores Ottawa's view that the government could do more harm if it did more before a final decision is made on the case.
Ottawa argues that on balance, the possible impacts on national security and the safety of those involved in the repatriation efforts outweigh the harm these men still suffer in custody.
In its unanimous decision on Tuesday, written by Judge David Stratas, the Federal Court of Appeal states that the three-judge panel will strive to render a judgment as quickly as possible in this case. There may be additional prejudice suffered by the respondents due to the delay, but this delay will be short-lived, assures the Court of Appeal.
The Court notes that the government reported obstacles in its first attempts to formally request the release of the four Canadians. For this reason, the Court indicates that even if the suspension of the trial judgment had been refused, it is not clear if there was a real impact on the situation of the detainees.
< p class="e-p">Without this stay, the government could be forced to take irreversible or harmful measures that it would not take if it were later successful on appeal, according to the Court.
Justice Stratas warns, however, that there will be serious ramifications if the appellants [the government] are later found to have been playing for time.
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Canadian children and their mother detained in al-Roj camp in northeast Syria. (File photo)
Federal Court Judge Henry Brown ruled in January that Canadians detained in Syria had the right to bring in a government official to facilitate their release.
Their repatriation has been hampered by the absence of any formal request from the Canadian government, Judge Brown said. He then argued that these Canadians could not benefit from a truly meaningful exercise of their right to enter Canada, guaranteed by the Charter. The judge also described the living conditions in the camps where these Canadians are being held as appalling.
One of the four men is Jack Letts. His parents, John Letts and Sally Lane, led a public campaign demanding that the Canadian government come to his aid. Along with other families, the parents of Jack Letts argued that by not facilitating the return of detainees, the government was violating their fundamental rights, including the right to be tried by the Canadian justice system if charges were laid against them.
The four men and 19 women and children who were part of the legal proceedings are not the only Canadians detained in Syria. It is unclear whether the outcome of this case will affect the government's approach to other Canadian detainees.