Women and children detained in Islamic State camps should be quickly repatriated to Canada: expert



A psychiatrist involved in efforts to support the children of Canadian women detained in Syria after traveling to join Islamic State is urging Ottawa to speed up repatriation efforts.

Dr. Cécile Rousseau, a child psychiatrist at McGill University and a specialist in violent radicalization and extremism, was part of a committee of local health officials and child protection experts brought together by the detachment of Quebec of the RCMP after the fall of the caliphate in 2017.

She said she does not believe that a handful of women returning with young children, who will be watched and supported, will pose a danger to Canadian society.

« I think we have to move forward because the longer we wait, the more difficult it will be for Canada and for people who return to reintegrate into society, » Rousseau said.

« So waiting is not a good idea, especially with young children. They are Canadian citizens, let’s bring them home – this is the best outcome for them and for us. »

On Wednesday, Oumaima Chouay, 27, returned to Canada with her two children and another Canadian adult, Kimberly Polman from British Columbia.

Chouay faces charges of leaving Canada to participate in the activity of a terrorist group, participation in the activity of a terrorist group, supplying goods or services for terrorist purposes and conspiracy to to participate in the activity of a terrorist group. His case returns to court on November 8.

Polman was released on bail Thursday by a British Columbia court pending a peace bond hearing.

Rousseau said in an interview on Thursday that she couldn’t speak to the children of Chouay, but she did discuss reintegration efforts being considered prior to their arrival from northeastern Syria, particularly from the child’s perspective.

Quebec authorities are awaiting the return of citizens who traveled to the Middle East to join the Islamic State, with particular concern for young children born abroad and arriving in Canada for the first time.

They spent more than a year discussing the fate of these children and their mothers held in detention camps and developing a plan for them.

Rousseau said officials looked at the experience of England and France, where mothers were automatically separated from their children after being repatriated. They also looked at other models that involved a community-based approach, promoting non-separation between mother and children and rapid integration into school and community.

« The idea was to promote, as much as possible, the maintenance of an attachment relationship, » she explained. “With a parent if possible, certainly with a parent and the extended family as long as the children were safe. And not taking the predicament of other European countries that had kind of considered that the extended family should be considered suspicious until proven otherwise. »

Authorities hope to avoid a revolving door of placement, especially « for children who have suffered cumulative trauma, multiple attachment breakdowns, and who have been living in difficult or survival situations for at least three years, if not their entire lives. » , said Rousseau.

At a news conference Wednesday, Quebec RCMP said police have long been concerned about children. Insp. David Beaudoin said significant steps have been taken to ensure they receive adequate support, including involvement from extended family.

Rousseau said authorities considered everything from arriving at the airport to having the children wait for hours while their parents were interrogated with food, toys and a place to rest. . They also discussed what to do if there is no extended family in Canada, finding safe welcoming environments while promoting cultural and religious continuity and security.

Rousseau said the first thing to do was to determine if the returning mothers were available to the children, both psychologically and emotionally. A depressed and traumatized mother may be able to care for children, but not necessarily provide emotional care, she said.

« Because we know that’s what makes kids feel safe and that’s absolutely essential, » Rousseau said.

Rousseau said most children who come to Canada are toddlers or school-age children who have experienced trauma, war or the grief of losing a loved one, including their father. Many of them will suffer from acute post-traumatic stress disorder but also from complex post-traumatic stress, where patients face deprivation alongside traumatic symptoms, she added.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was asked about repatriation efforts last week and stressed that it was important that people who travel for the purpose of supporting terrorism suffer the consequences.

“Basically, traveling for the purpose of supporting terrorism is a crime in Canada. And anyone who traveled for the purpose of supporting terrorism should face criminal charges,” he said.

When asked if other repatriation efforts were underway, Trudeau said Canadian authorities continued to « responsibly engage » in the region.


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