Nfld. & Labrador

Veteran Michael Kennedy in 'good health' after arrest in northern Iraq

A military veteran from Newfoundland and Labrador who had been fighting ISIS in Iraq has been arrested, according to a report from the National Post.

Veteran wanted to fight ISIS as 'sort of a humanitarian thing,' mother says

Kay Kennedy with her son Michael Kennedy. She says her son is being held in Erbil, Iraq by Kurdish authorities. (Facebook)

A military veteran from Newfoundland and Labrador, who had been fighting ISIS in Iraq, is reportedly in good health after being arrested.

Michael Kennedy, 32, spent the past six months as one of hundreds of foreign volunteers assisting Kurdish forces, said a report published Sunday in the National Post.

"We're focused on getting Michael home. He has been visited by embassy officials in Iraq. He's in good health and I've been in regular contact with his mom," MP Judy Foote said.

Foote, who knows the Kennedy family well, said she is being optimistic about his return.

We're working really hard to get Michael home and give her the relief that she needs.- Minister Judy Foote

She also said due to privacy considerations, she cannot provide many details. 

It is not known why Kennedy was arrested. 

"The embassy officials there on the ground are working with him through Global Affairs Canada and [are] making sure that the consular assistance is there for Michael to make sure that he is in good health, and he is."

Kennedy's mother, Kay Kennedy, told the National Post that her son was on his way home for Christmas when he was taken by Iraqi Kurdish authorities. She found out from a friend of her son's in Iraq.

"All I know is he's been arrested and he's in Erbil," Kennedy told the National Post. "Nobody knows the reasons."

Brother killed in 2007 roadside bomb blast

Kennedy declined an interview with CBC News Monday morning, and said she had been advised not to do any more interviews about her son's situation. 

She said the situation is particularly hard on her, as her son Kevin, 20, was one of six Canadian soldiers killed in a roadside bomb blast in 2007.

Foote said it was not her office who advised Kay Kennedy not to do any more interviews.

"Clearly this is a woman who has had a difficult time and I think she needs the respect and the time that comes with trying to deal with this situation," Foote said.

"We're working really hard to get Michael home and give her the relief that she needs."

Michael Kennedy served in the Canadian Forces for 13 years, his mother told the National Post, but after leaving the military in March, he made his way to northern Syria three months later.

Kay Kennedy said he later crossed into Iraq and has been fighting around Shingal since.

Kay Kennedy's son Kevin Kennedy was 20 when he was killed by a roadside bomb in Afghanistan in 2007. (Kay Gibbons Kennedy/Facebook)

She told the National Post he volunteered to fight the ISIS forces after hearing the experiences of people in northern Iraq, as "sort of a humanitarian thing."

The federal government has discouraged Canadians from travelling to fight ISIS, but has not stopped them or arrested them upon their return.

Global Affairs Canada is aware a Canadian citizen is currently detained in Iraq, a spokesperson with Global Affairs confirmed. 

"Canadian officials are providing consular assistance to the individual and are in contact with local authorities. Due to privacy considerations, further details cannot be disclosed at this time," the statement from Global Affairs read.

Canadians are being advised by Global Affairs against non-essential travel to Iraq, "including the provinces under the control of the Kurdistan Regional Government, Dahuk, Erbil and Sulaymaniyah, as the security situation could deteriorate quickly."

Because of the unpredictable security situation and the limitations of providing consular assistance, Global Affairs Canada is also warning Canadians that travelling to Syria is done at personal risk.


Meanwhile, a hashtag campaign has started on social media encouraging people to keep their back porch light on, as a symbolic beacon of support.

Lori Roul lives in Airport Heights in St. John's and has her light on to show "support for Michael and Kay."

"This woman has been through for so much," she said. "She lost her first son, and now her second son is in crisis as well."

Roul grew up in Lawn but said she knows the family. 

"We're just praying a lot for him to get home. It's sad, plus it's unbelievable. So I got the lights on over our front door and back door." said Roul. 

"People from that area of the Burin Peninsula, everybody is so concerned. I think about his mom, I think about the tragedy she's gone through. And no mom should have to go through that. It's horrendous."

With files from Cecil Haire and Carolyn Stokes