The government has explored multiple options to get Canadian ISIS fighters back to Canadian soil, according to a recently released report.
The heavily redacted report outlines possible responses to ISIS fighters in prison in Iraq and Syria and how to potentially bring them back to Canada.
“None of the options are ideal and all present different challenges and risks,” said the report.
The report also highlights that on April 18th, 2018, officials in the Privy Council Office, under then Clerk Michael Wernick, met to discuss the potential “managed returns” of those holding Canadian citizenship now in prison for fighting with ISIS.
The report makes it clear that the government has not had any discussion about prisoner transfers with the governments of Iraq, Turkey, or the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) — all of which are holding a number of Canadian ISIS fighters.
This was made clear by notes in the report from Ian Shugart, then Deputy Minister of Foreign Affair, now Clerk of the Privy Council.
“We have no direct contact with the individuals… We have received information about them from their families or from CSIS,” it read.
“However, as part of our due diligence, my officials, in consultation with the interdepartmental community, have evaluated a number of possible options/transfer scenarios.”
The report also makes note of an action taken by Global Affairs Canada on Jan. 10, 2019. Although details are redacted, this is the date Global Affairs made contact with Jack Letts, who is currently in a Syrian prison.
Letts, nicknamed “Jihadi Jack,” is a British man who went to Syria allegedly to fight for ISIS in 2014.
He may not have ever stepped foot in Canada, but he has dual-citizenship through his father, yet the Canadian government has spent time and resources on trying to bring him to Canada.
A British MP even alleged that the Canadian government had a plan to bring Letts to Canada, but was thwarted by the British government.
Other Canadian ISIS fighters who want to return include a man known to have been involved in producing ISIS execution videos, a man who promoting ISIS online and a woman who went there to support her ISIS-fighter husband and does not regret it.
The government estimates “around 60” Canadian ISIS fighters have already returned to Canada. However, law enforcement officials are not able to prosecute them for their heinous crimes.
“We may not be in a position, as each and every one of them comes back to Canada, that we’re at that stage where we can arrest them,” said RCMP Deputy Commissioner Denis Michaud.
It’s unclear if the government has made any more recent plans to bring ISIS fighters to Canada.