Assyrian activist calls government policy on returning ISIS fighters 'cruel joke'

"The indignation ... of just being fundamentally disrespected and fundamentally neglected in terms of our experience at the hands of a campaign of genocide that ISIS perpetrated against us."
The federal government is focusing on de-radicalization for Canadians returning home after supporting ISIS abroad. For Assryian activist Michael Youash, 'it's a cold slap in the face.' (Stringer/Reuters)
Listen22:08

Read Story Trancsript

ISIS fighters returning to Canada will be under surveillance if they are deemed a threat, according to Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale.

It's a cold slap in the face. It's something almost impossible to process or digest.-  Michael Youash,  Assryian activist

Only if evidence proves involvement in atrocities will these individuals face prosecution, according to Goodale. The federal government's key goal is to focus on de-radicalization and reintegrating Canadians returning home after supporting ISIS abroad. 

For some Assyrians of Iraq and Syria who have come to Canada, this approach feels abhorrent.

"It's a cold slap in the face. It's something almost impossible to process or digest," says Assryian activist Michael Youash, who adds his reaction is not only personal but represents Assyrian Canadian community leaders and activists that he's spoken to.

Assyrian activist Michael Youash says there are all types of victims of ISIS — Muslims, Sunni and Shia, the secular, the religious, the Indigenous and the Christian.

"The indignation, the feeling of just being fundamentally disrespected and fundamentally neglected in terms of our experience at the hands of a campaign of genocide that ISIS perpetrated against us."

"It's beyond shocking. I personally refer to it as a cruel joke."

Younan Lazar is a Christian Assyrian who fled Syria to escape ISIS. He now lives in Hamilton, Ont. with his wife and daughter. Translation by Raman Noori. 5:43

Youash tells The Current's Anna Maria Tremonti Syrian Canadians and Yazidi Canadians are also traumatized by the prospects of the government's policy. He adds that there are all types of victims of ISIS — Muslims, Sunni and Shia, the secular, the religious, the Indigenous and the Christian.

"But the significance for Assyrians and Yazidi is that they were part of a genocidal campaign against our people. What separates our plight from the plight of others in the Middle East is that there is the very real prospect of being completely wiped out," says Youash.

The policy conversation here has nothing to do with our suffering, has nothing to do with our experience, has nothing to do with justice.- Michael Youash

He tells Tremonti that it's not just what the Canadian government has said but also what it has not said in the past that prompts such a disdainful reaction.

"What's not being discussed is justice," says Youash.

Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale says the canadian intelligence community is doing all it can, in conjunction with international partners, to track ISIS fighters and ensure they don't take the fight elsewhere. 1:48

"In 2016, the United States Congress designated this a genocide."

"In 2016, the European Parliament designated ISIS's actions as genocide."

"On March 17th, 2016, Secretary of State John Kerry designated this a genocide ..."

Kurdish soldiers from the anti-terrorism units stand in front of a blindfolded suspected Islamic State member at a security centre, in Kobani, Syria. (Hussein Malla/Associated Press)

"On June 16th, a UN panel designated ISIS's crimes in Syria as a genocide, and only then did Minister Stephane Dion — at the time the foreign minister — acknowledged in public on June 17th that ISIS is guilty of genocide."

Youash points out what the government is missing is compassion for the Assyrians who fled persecution by ISIS to settle in Canada. 

"The policy conversation here has nothing to do with our suffering, has nothing to do with our experience, has nothing to do with justice."

Listen to the full conversation at the top of this post. 

The Current requested an interview with the Minister of Public Safety Ralph Goodale and hope to have him on the program later this week. 


This segment is produced by The Current's John Chipman and Howard Goldenthal.