Four-year-old Canadian girl rescued from Syrian detention camp, mother left behind
TORONTO -- A little girl has been rescued from a detention camp in northeast Syria and is on her way to Canada, but her Canadian mother is not with her.
The four-year-old girl, whose identity is being withheld, was rescued not through the efforts of the government, but the efforts of her Canadian aunt and a former U.S. diplomat, CTV News can confirm.
The girl’s mother was not allowed to leave with her. In a text message, she said she kept a brave face, but her heart “was broken in a million pieces."
The child and her mother were stranded in Kurdish detention camps in Syria after the defeat of ISIS.
More than 30 Canadians have been held there for two years with little or no support from the Canadian government. Syria is preparing to mark 10 years of civil war.
The former U.S. diplomat who assisted with the child’s repatriation, Peter Galbraith, has deep ties to the Kurds. He told CTV News that the child’s mother did the right thing.
“It's very tough to give up your child,” Galbraith said. “She clearly was a very good mother and the evidence of that is that she put her child first and realized that it would be a disaster growing up in a prison camp in Syria and instead she gave the child a future.”
Canada has refused to send diplomats into Syria, but did help the family with travel documents in this case.
“The Government of Canada was not involved in securing the child’s exit,” Global Affairs told CTV News in a statement, but “provided consular assistance to facilitate the child’s travel from Iraq to Canada.”
While the child’s rescue is good news, some question why more isn’t being done to rescue other Canadians, such as the child’s mother.
"Repatriating a child without their mother raises really serious concerns,” Farida Deif of Human Rights Watch Canada told CTV News. “You know, this is a child who has a surviving Canadian mother. Why then was the mother not repatriated with the child?”
Last fall, after months of her family campaigning for the government to rescue her, a five-year-old Canadian orphan was rescued from a Syrian detention camp. She was called “an exceptional case,” by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at the time.