Editorial – Jack Letts is a Canadian citizen

Tom Henihan

From the beginning of the Jack Letts saga, when the convert to Islam left his middleclass home in Oxford to travel to Syria, I suspect that the British media used the moniker “Jihadi Jack,” not to describe a blood thirsty Jihadist, but to ridicule the callow, misguided youth, acting on some ill-conceived notion of solidarity with an Islamic cause.

That the British Government summarily withdrew the U.K born Jack Letts’ citizenship is evidence that citizenship in Britain is a tenuous affair and not a sacrosanct, inviolable birthright.

International law generally prohibits leaving people stateless but as Letts had dual British and Canadian citizenship, the U.K. could deprive the British born Letts of citizenship without rendering him stateless.

In confirming that the U.K. had revoked Letts’ citizenship, Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale, issued a written statement saying that Canada was “disappointed by the move,” and accused Britain of off-loading its responsibilities onto Canada, as Letts will become Canada’s responsibility if he is deported.

Kurdish forces in northern Syria are currently holding Letts, who is now 24 years old.

Predictably, the federal Conservative Party denounced the Liberal government’s position on citizenship rights for terrorists, with public safety critic Pierre Paul-Hus saying the Liberal government must endeavor to keep Letts from entering Canada.

He said, “The idea that anyone who signed up to fight with ISIS can be reformed is naïve and dangerous to the safety of Canadians,” and that “Justin Trudeau must assure Canadians today that he isn’t trying to bring Jihadi Jack back to Canada.”

Apart from the attempt to deny a Canadian citizen his right to due process; the assertion that Jack Letts poses a threat to national security is disingenuous, as a known alleged terrorist is far less a threat than an unknown terrorist.

Some concession is due to Letts as age is a mitigating factor: he was not even twenty years old when he embarked on this ill-conceived and ill-fated crusade and has expressed remorse for having joined a terror organization.

Some sympathy is due also to Letts’ parents and it is not difficult to empathize with their desperate efforts to repatriate their son to either Britain or Canada.

However, the recent British move now leaves Canada as their only hope.

In a democracy, no prime minister is at liberty to pronounce someone guilty by decree and revoke his or her citizenship.

Like Stephen Harper, Andrew Scheer believes that some Canadian citizens are more worthy than others, the others being primarily dual citizens and naturalized Canadians.

Jack Letts is a Canadian citizen by birth, so he is entitled to the rights his Canadian citizenship guarantees.

However, it certainly seems underhanded of the U.K. to abdicate its responsibility, as Ralph Goodale said, by off-loading it onto Canada, especially considering that Letts was born in Britain and it was in that social environment that the British middleclass Jack Letts, morphed into the now infamous, Jihadi Jack.

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