OTTAWA (Reuters) – Canadian Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale said on Tuesday the government would not help Jack Letts – dubbed “Jihadi Jack” by the media – come to Canada from the Kurdish prison where he is being held.
Letts, who had dual Canadian-British citizenship, was stripped of his UK citizenship, a move that Goodale said on Sunday was an attempt by the United Kingdom to “off-load” its responsibilities in the case.
Asked in an interview with the Canadian Broadcasting Corp whether the government had decided to repatriate Letts, Goodale said: “We have no obligation to facilitate his travel from his present circumstances, and we have no intention of facilitating that travel.”
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberals repealed a law that allowed for the citizenship of those convicted of terrorism offences to be revoked. The policy shift, and Trudeau’s “A Canadian is a Canadian is a Canadian” mantra, has prompted criticism from some opponents that he is soft on national security.
On Monday, Trudeau’s main opponent in the October national election, Andrew Scheer, said that if elected, he “will not lift a finger” to help Letts.
Letts, a Muslim convert whose father is Canadian, left Britain for Syria in 2014 when he was 18, according to media reports. He has been held in a Kurdish prison for two years after he was captured trying to leave Syria for Turkey. In an ITV interview, Letts said he hoped Canada would take him in.
His father, John Letts, disputed the “knee-jerk assumption” that his son fought with Islamic State while in Syria, but added that if his son had broken the law, he should be tried, according to an interview with Canada’s Global News radio on Sunday.
Goodale said: “Our first obligation is to look after the national security of our country and the safety of Canadians.”
(Reporting by Steve Scherer; Editing by Peter Cooney)