At least six young Quebecers from Laval and Montreal have left the country in January to join militants in Syria.
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According to early information, two of them appear to be young women from Laval, while at least one of the young men is from Montreal. It is not yet known where the other three men are from.
Some of those who left are students at Montreal CEGEP Collège de Maisonneuve.
"We’ve been informed about three yesterday and in fact, those three names — they were students in our college for the last [semester], but not this [semester]," said Brigitte Desjardins of Collège de Maisonneuve.
They reportedly flew out of Montreal-Trudeau international airport to Turkey as a path into Syria in mid-January.
Two days later, family members alerted the Montreal police department. Cmdr. Ian Lafrenière refused to comment, citing the ongoing investigation.
The file was quickly transferred to the RCMP, who would not comment on the ongoing investigation.
Father noticed a change
Vincent Larouche, a journalist who reported on the story for La Presse, shared information he had learned with CBC Daybreak on Thursday.
"What investigators are looking into are a group of six young people aged mostly 18 years old, 19 years old," he told Daybreak host Mike Finnerty.
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He said the father of one of the young men told him that he had noticed a change in his son that worried him to the point of confiscating his passport.
"He didn’t know him to be very religious or very radical in the past, and he noticed a change," Larouche said.
He said the son reported his passport stolen and got a new one, unbeknownst to his parents.
Retired CSIS intelligence officer Dave Charland said on Daybreak that Turkey is a known gateway into Syria for people looking to join militants.
"It’s not the first time. Maybe it’s the first time that it’s been in the media, but this is a tendency that we were seeing as far as the beginning of the Syrian conflict in 2011," Charland said.
He said it is difficult for Canadian authorities to prevent people from going overseas to join ISIS or similar groups without proof, and that it's even harder to bring them back after they've arrived overseas.
"It's a question of proof-gathering, Charland said.
"It's really hard for the police to know exactly what the intention are of those people.… If they don't have any evidence that those people want to join a terrorist group, they cannot take the passports of those persons."