Harper's travel ban is not a serious solution to stopping would-be ISIS jihadis
By Scott Taylor
Right out of the election gate, the Harper Conservatives are trying their darnedest to convince Canadians they are the only party that can keep us safe from ISIS.
The latest ruse is the proposed terrorism travel ban legislation, which would make it illegal for Canadian citizens to enter into regional hotbeds of terrorist activity. In theory, this would prevent radicalized Canadian extremists from travelling to the Middle East and joining the ranks of evil-doers such as ISIS or al-Qaida.
Of course, the Conservatives had to immediately concede that this new law would not apply to journalists, aid workers or volunteers who chose to travel to these same hot spots.
While, on the surface, it might appear that the Conservatives are seeking to make Canada safer from the bad guys, the truth is that such a law would be virtually unenforceable.
There are no direct flights into terrorist-controlled hotbeds. Any Canadian, for whatever purpose, wishing to enter ISIS-held territories in Syria or Iraq would have to travel first to a neighbouring country, such as Jordan or Turkey, or to non-ISIS controlled cities such as Erbil in the Kurdish-held north or Baghdad.
Canada has no exit inspection for travellers leaving the country via our international airports, and even if we did, what moron would tell the Canada Border Services Agency that they intended to join ISIS and wage jihad?
The exemption for Canadians travelling to these same flashpoints for the purpose of fighting against ISIS could also prove somewhat problematic.
Take, for instance, the case of the much-publicized Tiger Sun (birth name Hanna Bohman). Sun is the 46-year-old former fashion model from Vancouver who has just returned to Canada after four months fighting ISIS in Syria. Although she had never been in the military, Sun apparently got incensed when she saw an ISIS propaganda video featuring Canadian volunteer John McGuire. With McGuire fighting on the side of the evil-doers, Sun decided to do Canada proud by fighting against them.
There was, of course, the option of joining the Canadian Armed Forces and learning basic combat skills first, but the impatient Sun “didn’t want to spend two years sitting around in Edmonton or Ottawa,” she wanted to get straight into battle. After flying into Baghdad, Sun found a way to get herself smuggled into the Kurdish rebel-controlled area of Syria, where she promptly enlisted in the YPG (People’s Protection Units) militia. She apparently only required a few hours of basic weapons training before she was deemed fighting fit and sent to the front lines.
One has to wonder why the Canadian Army spends so much time and money training its soldiers for combat deployments when a former fashion model can learn the basics — in a foreign language — in just half a day. In her humorous interviews with the British tabloids and Canadian media, Sun had nothing but high praise for the Kurds with whom she fought alongside in the trenches. She noted she had only left the fight because she was suffering from malnutrition, and is resting and recovering in Vancouver.
It was, of course, after her return to Canada that Turkey chose to enter the battle against not only ISIS in Syria but also against the PKK (Kurdistan Workers’ Party) separatists based in northern Iraq. In response to Turkish airstrikes, the PKK launched a terrorist campaign against Turkish security forces across eastern Turkey. The PKK is listed as a terrorist organization by the United States, Canada and European Union. Turkey, of course, is a NATO ally.
Should Sun be motivated enough by the Turkish offensive against the Kurds to return to fight with the YPG, she could suddenly find herself on the other side of Harper’s proposed travel ban law.
The Syria-Iraq bubbling cauldron is a hodgepodge of unholy alliances and constantly changing dynamics. Only a few months ago, Canada’s position on the Syrian crisis was “Assad must go,” meaning we wholeheartedly supported the opposition. That opposition included ISIS and al-Qaeda.
Enforcing a travel ban to terrorist hot spots where today’s terrorist is tomorrow’s freedom fighter and vice versa is simply impossible.