Immigration Minister Chris Alexander has publicly confirmed that the federal government has begun to revoke the passports of Canadians who have left the country to join extremist groups in Iraq and Syria; Alexander added that the government has also revoked the passports of several citizens who planned to—but had not as yet—left the country to join extremist groups.
Although Alexander was unwilling to reveal the exact number of Canadian passports revoked during these recent actions, he confirmed there are “multiple cases”, and that about 30 Canadians have joined extremist groups in Syria, and an additional 130 are fighting in other countries. The revocation of the passports means those Canadian citizens affected by the move will, in effect, be stranded in Syria as well as the other countries in which they are fighting along side extremist groups.
The revocation of the Canadian passports also means the affected Canadian citizens can neither return to Canada, nor use their passports to travel to other countries around the world.
This action comes in the wake of confirmation that some Canadians have joined the terrorist group Islamic State in Syria (ISIS), including a 23-year old Ontario man who bragged in online postings of “playing soccer with severed heads.”
The Canadian government had recently come under some criticism from civil liberty groups, as well as some immigration attorneys, for its revision to Canadian law extending its power to revoke the passports of citizens found to be supporting “extremist” groups. Still, Alexander and his government have vigorously defended the changes that provide the added powers of passport revocation, particularly in the wake of recent terrorist activities in the Middle East.
Speaking recently to the Security Council at the United Nations, Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird said that ISIS was a “terrorist army…with a medieval ideology” and that Canada and other nations must “reject their nihilistic world view wherever we find it.”
For his part, Canada’s immigration minister said his ministry sees the revocation of passports of those participating in terrorist activity as a means of protecting both Canadians, and the country’s reputation around the world.
“We want to ensure that Canada’s good name is not besmirched by these people any more than it already has been, and that Canadians are protected,” Chris Alexander said.