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Can Canada Afford Not Bringing Foreign Fighters Home for Prosecution?

Last updated on February 9th, 2019

Canada, in order to protect its citizens, has said that it will avert the danger of bringing the foreign fighters home for prosecution. The statement came after US called on its allies combating in Syria and Iraq, to take the step.

“We have heard the request, or the suggestion, from the United States, but at this point, the fact of the matter remains that is a dangerous and dysfunctional part of the world in which we have no diplomatic presence and we are not going to put our diplomatic officers or consular officials at risk,” Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale said on Tuesday.

The US government is reportedly working on the withdrawal of its remaining troops from the region. The US Department of the State thus, issued a statement on Monday stating that the Syrian Defense force (SDF) have taken charge of the hundreds of foreign fighters from countries all around the world.

“The United States calls upon other nations to repatriate and prosecute their citizens detained by the SDF and commends the continued efforts of the SDF to return these foreign terrorist fighters to their countries of origin,” the statement from the US read.

Goodale, on Tuesday, expressed that his nation is working along its allies in the Five Eyes intelligence sharing network (Australia, Britain, New Zealand, and the US) to gather the shreds of evidences and cannot take the risk. The proofs are a key in the matter and can be used to convict Canadians who went abroad to join ISIS.

The response from Canada sounds pragmatic given the security of its citizens, but it also brings in the risk of ignoring America’s advice.

According to Amarnath Amarasingam, a senior research fellow at the Institute for Strategic Dialogue, who visited Syrian camps where foreign fighters are being held, said there are currently four men, three women, and seven children in custody.

A spokesperson from Goodale’s office said that they cannot confirm the numbers “due to privacy act.”

Amarasingam also stated that the SDF is not powerful enough to hold the foreign fighters in camps perpetually, and the tensions inside the US might escalate thinking that they might escape. Besides, vehemently pointing out that they might also strike a deal with Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad, and turn the fighters and their children over for execution.

“Leaving hundreds of jihadist fighters — well-trained jihadist fighters — in a kind of weird limbo state, if the Americans do pull out, is not ideal from a national security point of view,” he told Power & Politics host Vassy Kapelos.

Therefore, the situation puts Canada in hot water and forces them to bring back home their foreign fighters, even when Goodale deems the move risky for its citizens.

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