OTTAWA — The United Kingdom is shirking its share of the international community’s duty to help keep the world safe from terrorism, the federal government suggested Sunday after the British Home Office revoked the citizenship of a dual citizen imprisoned in Syria.
Jack Letts, a British-Canadian man who has been behind bars in a Kurdish prison since 2017, has been stripped of his British citizenship, the office of Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale confirmed in a sternly worded statement.
“Canada is disappointed that the United Kingdom has taken this unilateral action to off-load their responsibilities,” the statement said. “Terrorism knows no borders, so countries need to work together to keep each other safe.”
Letts, who was dubbed “Jihadi Jack” by the British media, has been detained for about two years after he travelled to Syria in 2014 to support the Islamic State group.
A statement from the Home Office said revoking British citizenships is one way it counters terrorist threats. It said it does not comment on individual cases.
“Decisions on depriving a dual national of citizenship are based on substantial advice from officials, lawyers and the intelligence agencies and all available information,” the statement said.
Letts’ parents, John Letts and Sally Lane, were found guilty in June for funding terrorism when they tried to send him money. The couple, from Oxford, England, received suspended sentences of 12 months in prison.
John Letts wrote a letter to Canadian MPs last year that said his son is not a terrorist and deserves Canada’s protection. In his letter, Letts wrote that the money was to pay “people smugglers,”which he described as his son’s “only way out” of Syria.
Goodale’s office said it is aware of multiple Canadian citizens detained in Syria, referring to Public Safety Canada’s latest report on terrorism threats to Canada.
The federal government is aware of about 190 “extremist travellers with a nexus to Canada” abroad, with about a half of those located in Syria, Turkey or Iraq, according to the 2018 report.
Goodale’s office said there is no legal obligation to facilitate their return to Canada and that Canadians involved in terrorism or violent extremism must be held accountable for their actions.
John Letts said last year that Global Affairs Canada told the family for months that it was working to get their son released, but that the department eventually decided it was too dangerous.
Goodale’s office says consular services will not be provided “to undue risk in this dangerous part of the world.”
— with files from the Associated Press
The Canadian Press