The government has begun invalidating the passports of Canadians who have left the country to join extremist groups in Syria and Iraq, Citizenship and Immigration Minister Chris Alexander revealed in an interview on Friday.
The minister told the National Post his department had also revoked the passports of several Canadians who had not yet left the country but who had intended to travel to the volatile region to enlist as foreign fighters.
He would not disclose the number of passports Citizenship and Immigration Canada had revoked over the conflict but said there were “multiple cases.” The government says about 30 Canadians are with extremist groups in Syria and 130 are active elsewhere.
“Yes, I think it’s safe to say that there are cases of revocation of passports involving people who’ve gone to Syria and Iraq already,” Alexander said. “I just don’t want to get into the numbers, but multiple cases.”
The action means Canadian fighters in Syria and Iraq may effectively be stranded there. Their passports are no longer valid and therefore cannot be used to return to Canada. Nor could they be used to travel elsewhere.
This week the Post revealed the identity of another Canadian with the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). Mohamed Ali, a 23-year-old from Mississauga, Ont., left Canada in April and later wrote online about playing soccer with severed heads.
Other Canadians allegedly with ISIL and similar extremist groups in the region include Hasibullah Yusifzai of Burnaby, B.C., and Calgary’s Farah Shirdon, who this week threatened attacks on the United States, before Twitter suspended his account.
Alexander said while they were few in number, he was troubled that Canadians had joined ISIL, which has been committing widespread atrocities in an attempt to impose its militant version of Islamic law on Syrians and Iraqis.
“We are not by any means the leading contributor of foreign fighters to Syria, even though the dozens that are there and the 130 that are abroad (with other extremist groups) is a disturbing number for all Canadians. But 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.”