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Canadian woman released from Syrian camp released on bail in Alberta

Three of the women were arrested upon arrival, while the fourth was not detained
Lawyer Lawrence Greenspon leaves the courthouse in Ottawa on Friday, July 8, 2022. Greenspon says a Canadian woman who was returned from a prison camp in Syria this week has been released on bail in Edmonton pending a terrorism peace bond application. THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Patrick Doyle

A Canadian woman who returned to Canada from a prison camp in northeastern Syria this week has been released on bail in Edmonton pending a terrorism peace bond application, Mounties in Alberta said Friday.

She was among four Canadian women and 10 children who landed in Montreal either late Wednesday or early Thursday, the largest single group Canada has repatriated from Syria, said lawyer Lawrence Greenspon, who has been helping get them home.

Three of the women were arrested upon arrival, while the fourth was not detained. Two of those arrested were sent to Brampton, Ont., where they will undergo a bail hearing Tuesday, Greenspon said.

The third was sent to Edmonton where a bail hearing was held Thursday. RCMP in Alberta said Friday the 38-year-old woman is subject to a number of conditions while she awaits the peace bond process but did not specify what those were.

The 10 children are all with relatives, said Greenspon.

On Jan. 18, Global Affairs Canada agreed that all of them could return to Canada, along with two other women and three additional children. Greenspon said the other two women and those three children did not make it on the plane and he does not yet know why.

“I’m confident that Global Affairs Canada will continue in good faith to do what they said they would do, which is to repatriate these two women and the three children,” he said.

“They are war refugees. They were on territory that was taken over by the Kurds, (who) have said to the countries of the world, ‘please come and take your nationals.’”

The women and children were held for years at the al-Roj prison camp in northeastern Syria. It is one of two displaced persons camps in the region that is now controlled by the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces, which runs what is known as the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria.

The detainees in the camps are mostly women and children who were rounded up after the fall of the extremist Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant in 2019. Some are relatives of suspected ISIS fighters, but they have never been brought before a court.

About 10,000 of them are foreign nationals from more than 60 countries outside Syria and Iraq. The Kurds have asked those countries to repatriate their citizens.

United Nations secretary-general Antonio Guterres said last month countries like Canada have a responsibility to bring their citizens home from the camps, which he says have the “worst possible conditions” and are depriving people of their rights.

Alexandra Bain, director of Families Against Violent Extremism, said she is trying to help 32 others in the camps return to Canada. That includes the two women and three children who missed the plane this week, and one additional Canadian woman and her six children.

Canada has agreed to allow her children to come back but haven’t yet issued a security clearance to the mother, who is from Quebec. RCMP officers recently visited the camps to interview the Canadians, but Bain said they didn’t speak French and the Quebec mother was unable to understand them.

She is working with four non-Canadian women who are mothers to 10 Canadian children living in the camps, and six Canadian men. Some of the men are fathers of the children, said Bain.

A Federal Court judge ruled On Jan. 20 that Canada must repatriate four Canadian men held in the camps. The federal government appealed that ruling and the appeal was heard in late March. A decision has not yet been issued.

Bain said if that ruling is upheld it will apply not just to the four men involved in the case but to any Canadians in the camps.

None of the women who were arrested upon arrival in Canada are charged with a crime, said Greenspon. Instead the Crown is seeking a terrorism peace bond, available when the Crown has reasonable grounds to fear an individual may commit a terrorism offence.

Such a bond would require an individual to maintain good behaviour and follow specific conditions for up to a year or face a possible prison sentence. The conditions could include a curfew and refraining from communicating with certain other people, said Greenspon.

A terrorism peace bond is also being sought for Kimberly Polman, a British Columbia woman repatriated to Canada from Syria last year.

Greenspon said Polman was granted bail pending a hearing for the peace bond, which has not yet taken place.

Mia Rabson, The Canadian Press