Crown seeks terrorism peace bond in Calgary after Canadian mother freed from ISIS detention camp

A Canadian woman who landed in Alberta earlier this week after being held at an ISIS detention camp in Syria for two years will be in a Calgary courtroom Friday as prosecutors seek a terrorism peace bond.

Woman doesn't face charges but Crown wants to impose conditions on her freedoms

Women walk with their children in the al-Roj detention camp where a Canadian woman now in Alberta was held with her young daughter. (Stephanie Jenzer/CBC)

A Canadian woman who landed in Alberta earlier this week after being held at an ISIS detention camp in Syria for two years appeared in a Calgary courtroom Friday as prosecutors seek a terrorism peace bond.

Defence lawyer Yoav Niv and prosecutor prosecutor Ben Rodgers set a two-day hearing before provincial court Judge Lloyd Robertson in March, when the Crown's application will be heard. 

A publication ban protects the 30-year-old woman's identity. CBC News will call her "S.A.," as she was previously identified in Federal Court.

S.A. does not face criminal charges but prosecutors are seeking a terrorism peace bond, which would impose restrictions on her freedoms. A peace bond is an acknowledgement that there are reasonable grounds to fear that a person may commit a terrorism offence.

Niv says he plans to oppose the Crown's application.

University of Calgary law professor Michael Nesbitt, who specializes in anti-terrorism law, calls the move by police and prosecutors a likely trade-off with S.A. and her lawyers.

The idea is that with no charges laid, police would still have a mechanism in place to monitor the person with the peace bond.

"Certainly charges could be brought against someone who travelled to participate in ISIS in Syria," said Nesbitt.

"The flip side if you have someone who is rehabilitated, who is repentant, who doesn't appear to be a risk other than the fact that they've shown a proclivity in the past toward this, then jail time and a prosecution particularly where the outcome is uncertain … it seems like a compromise for everyone involved."

S.A. reunites with daughter

S.A. and her daughter lived in a camp in northeast Syria for two years. The child's father is dead, according to the mother's Federal Court affidavit.

After she arrived Monday, RCMP took S.A. into custody, as per an arrangement between police, the Crown and S.A.'s lawyers. She was then granted bail by a justice of the peace with the consent of prosecutors. 

In an email sent to CBC News on Tuesday, prosecutors would not say whether the Crown anticipates laying criminal charges.

On Monday, S.A., who is a Canadian citizen, was reunited with her five-year-old daughter after the child was allowed to leave with the woman's sister and an American diplomat in March.

At the time, the Canadian government said it helped provide travel documents but did not arrange for her exit from the Islamic State detention camp where she'd been held. 

The group Human Rights Watch provided this photo of the now five-year-old Canadian girl after she escaped a detention camp for family members of Islamic State suspects in northeast Syria. Her face has been blurred to protect her identity. (Submitted by Human Rights Watch)

S.A.'s travel to Syria

In 2014, when she was 23 years old, S.A. left Canada for Syria. According to the affidavits, S.A. says she realized she'd been "manipulated" into going to Syria.

In an interview with CBC News in March, S.A. said she never intended to join the Islamic State extremist group and described herself as being naive and easily led by others when she left Canada. 

She said she was a housewife, not a militant, and that she knew she'd made a mistake as soon as she'd crossed the border into the so-called caliphate. 

S.A. wrote in her affidavit that she tried to leave several times but was not allowed to do so and was then "completely isolated from the outside world." 

In 2016, S.A.'s daughter was born.

S.A. provided 'extensive information' to FBI

In 2019, after several attempts to escape Syria, S.A. was detained by the Kurdish Syrian Democratic Forces. She arrived in northeastern Syria at Camp Al-Hol that February.

Former American ambassador and diplomat Peter Galbraith has been in contact with S.A. since March 2020 to help her get released from the Syrian prison camp. 

Galbraith has been working to help the estimated 8,000 women and children being held in northeast Syria because of their involvement with or family connections to ISIS.

According to Galbraith's affidavit, S.A. provided "extensive information to the FBI both about ISIS suspects and about kidnapped American children."

5 RCMP officers interview S.A. in Iraq

"[S.A.] was very helpful to me on numerous occasions, sharing information and providing other assistance to me from within the al-Roj camp," said Galbraith in his affidavit.

The camp houses more than 700 families of suspected ISIS militants and is under the control of the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces, which are running what's known as the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria.

Galbraith said S.A. didn't appear to be aligned in any way with the ISIS loyalists in the camps.

In June, with the help of Galbraith, S.A. was released from the camps, spending the last five months in Iraq as she waited for the Canadian government to issue her travel documents.

According to S.A.'s affidavit, she was interviewed over two days for a total of about eight hours by five RCMP officers, who had travelled to Iraq in October for what was described to her as a "threat assessment."

"After asking these questions, the RCMP officer told me that, given my answers and my presentation, it was his opinion that I was not a threat to anyone," wrote S.A. 

With files from Margaret Evans and Murray Brewster