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CIC Montreal: How can Canada manage returning foreign fighters?

November 13, 2018 @ 5:30 pm - 7:30 pm EST


“I dream about one day bringing all the militants to justice, not just the leaders like Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi but all the guards and slave owners, every man who pulled a trigger and pushed my brothers’ bodies into their mass grave, every fighter who tried to brainwash young boys into hating their mothers for being Yazidi. They should all be put on trial before the entire world, like the Nazi leaders after World War II, and not given the chance to hide.”

Nadia Murad, this year’s Nobel Peace Prize winner and a former captive of the Islamic State, has said: “We must work together with determination — so that genocidal campaigns will not only fail, but lead to accountability for the perpetrators. Survivors deserve justice. And a safe and secure pathway home.”

More than any other terrorist entity before, the Islamic State was able to attract combatants from around the world. Today, the U.S. Department of Defense and the United Nations estimate that approximately 30,000 ISIS fighters remain in Syria and Iraq. Others have fled.

Many countries including France, Belgium, and Germany are grappling with what to do with their citizens who have travelled to Syria and Iraq to fight for the terrorist groups and are now being held by Kurdish or Iraqi authorities. Should they be repatriated to their home countries to face justice? What about the children? What about the wives of ISIS fighters?

In the past few weeks, the issue has come to the forefront here in Canada in large part thanks to journalist Stewart Bell who travelled to Northern Iraq with Amarnath Amarasingam, a professor who studies foreign fighters, to meet with Canadian foreign fighters. Kurdish authorities who hold some of these fighters captive want Canada to take back at least a dozen Canadian ISIS fighters, women and children they are holding. Canada was initially interested in bringing Canadians home but repatriation processes were halted for unknown reasons and a few months ago, the government stated that it preferred the more comprehensive approach of reintegrating returnees into society. The Liberals have been criticized for being soft on terrorism while the Conservative were charged with fear mongering for demanding a tougher approach.

Canada is now confronted with decisions about what to do with war criminals who have killed ethnic minorities, including the genocide of the Yazidis. It is not an easy matter. Bringing perpetrators to justice in Canada or in international courts may fail. And it also costs a lot of money. But don’t we owe it to the victims of ISIS crimes to bring perpetrators to justice? Shouldn’t Canada uphold its values and laws?

To talk about these questions, join the discussion on 18 November with Amarnath Amarasingam, Sabrina Sassi, Phil Gurski, and Jeffrey Allan.

Speakers’ Biographies

Amarnath Amarasingam, Canadian extremism researcher, Senior Research Fellow at the Institute for Strategic Dialogue

Sabrina Sassi, Jeanne Sauvé Fellow, expert on extremism, youth and reintegration

Phil Gurski, President and CEO of Borealis Threat and Risk Consulting, former CSIS Analyst

Jeffrey Allan, former Political Affairs Officer for the United Nations Mission Assistance for Iraq (UNAMI)


Event is free but a donations of $5 or more are welcomed.

Registration via Eventbrite

The event will be followed by a small reception


Jeanne Sauve House
1514 Avenue du Docteur-Penfield
Montreal, QC H3G 1B9 Canada
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CIC Montreal Branch