On returning ISIS fighters, Canada has ‘responsibility’ not to ‘hand it off’ to others, MP says

Canada has a “responsibility” not to leave its ISIS fighters for some other country to deal with.

Karen McCrimmon, parliamentary secretary for public safety, made that argument in an interview with the West Block’s Mercedes Stephenson, noting that doing otherwise would be the same as creating different classes of Canadian citizenship.

“We don’t believe in two-tier citizenship and if someone’s a Canadian citizen, we’re responsible for them whether we like it or not,” she said.

“When there’s Canadians abroad who have broken the law, it’s our responsibility to deal with it. We can’t just hand it off to some other nation to deal with.”

Her remarks come after a week that saw the Liberals support a Conservative motion calling on the government to table its plan for dealing with and prosecuting returning ISIS fighters.

As Global News has documented exclusively over recent weeks, there are 13 Canadians held by the Kurds in Syria on suspicion of having fought with ISIS.

Of those individuals, three were male fighters, while another three are women.

Seven are children.

Kurdish officials have said they want other countries to take back their citizens.

Unlike countries like the United Kingdom, Canada did not strip those who went to fight with ISIS of their citizenship.

That means the government is not allowed to block their attempts to come home.

But the question of just how much help the government should be offering is another matter entirely.

Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale suggested earlier this month the Canadians now seeking to return from fighting with ISIS must face the consequences of their decisions and that consular officials will not be put at risk to help them.

“When people voluntarily leave Canada to go into a war zone and associate themselves in one way or another with a vicious terrorist organization, the consequences of that have to be clearly understood by them,” Goodale said, noting law enforcement agencies from around the world are working together to gather evidence to prosecute such individuals.

READ MORE: Goodale says Canadian ISIS fighters will face consequences, officials won’t be put in danger to help

“They made this decision to leave this country and to go somewhere else to become associated with a vile and heinous and atrocious terrorist organization. There are consequences that flow from that.”

McCrimmon echoed her minister’s remarks.

“Let’s make it quite clear,” she said. “Those people left the safety of Canadian democracy willingly and they’ve gone to fight with a heinous organization on the other side of the world. There has to be consequences for that and there will be.”

She would not, however, say whether the government is considering providing more money to national security bodies like the RCMP to deal with the challenges of monitoring those individuals if they return, or amending any of the laws making it difficult for police to build cases that can stand up in court.

“That’s a dilemma that we’re all dealing with,” she said.

“We need to find the firm evidence and that’s exactly what we’re working on.”

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