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Families want government to bring back 16 Canadians held by Kurdish forces in Syria – National




An organization representing the families of extremist group members is demanding the government repatriate 16 Canadians it says are being held in detention camps in northern Syria.

Families Against Violent Extremism said in a statement obtained Wednesday by Global News that nine of the captives were adults and seven were infants and children under age six.

U.S.-backed Kurdish forces have captured several Canadians who were allegedly fighters in the so-called Islamic State, the wives of ISIS foreign fighters as well as their children.

Debate over what to do with them has captivated the House of Commons, which passed an opposition motion on Tuesday, giving the government 45 days to table a strategy for bringing ISIS members to justice.

MPs approve motion calling for government strategy on returning ISIS members

But the statement by the families group said none had been charged, their indefinite detention was a violation of international law and the fate of the children was a particular concern.

“Winter is drawing in, leaving these children in tents in the bitter cold,” it said. “The children go hungry, lack adequate clothing, and are traumatized by violence. Many are sick without adequate medical care, and lack basic educational opportunity.”

FAVE refuted the government’s claim that there was no safe way to get the Canadians out of Syria, noting it had worked to facilitate the return of an American woman and her four children to Indiana in August.

The group has scheduled a news conference for Tuesday on Parliament Hill, where it says it will “announce plans to likewise help Global Affairs fulfill their duty to provide support to Canadians in dire straits abroad.”


Meanwhile, a pro-ISIS group issued a statement about the capture of Canadian ISIS member Muhammad Ali, warning foreign fighters they face a “harmful destiny” if they stray from the group.

The release acknowledged that Kurdish forces had captured “three of our brothers,” including Ali, and cautioned “not to leave the lands of the Caliphate for any reason in such difficult times.”

The Middle East Media Research Institute, which obtained the English-language release by the Al-Muhajireen Foundation, said it could signal that ISIS was concerned about mounting desertions.

“This new warning, along with other material recently released by ISIS media outlets, may indicate that the organization is facing a wave of defections, mutiny and desertions, in particular among its contingent of foreign fighters,” MEMRI wrote.


A 28-year-old from Mississauga, Ali told Global News in an exclusive interview in northern Syria that he was captured by Kurdish fighters four months ago while trying to cross into Turkey.

His appeal to be returned to Canada has ignited debate in the House of Commons, with the Conservatives demanding the government ensure returning ISIS members do not walk free and the Liberals insisting officials are doing what they can.

The Al-Muhajireen Foundation is not an official arm of the so-called Islamic State but rather disseminates “fanboy” propaganda supporting the terrorist group on the social media platform Telegram.

In an Oct. 16 release, it said “Abu Turaab Al-Kanadi and two others” had been arrested by Kurdish fighters who “continue to follow our brothers, wherever they go.” Abu Turaab was Ali’s ISIS name.

Ontario PCs will table bill to strip returning extremist fighters of license, benefits

It also said the three captives had been misrepresented “in the unbeliever’s media in a way that does not align with the truth of the Caliphate’s soldiers or the Islamic State.”

“Despite our continuous warnings to our brothers (especially al-muhajireen [foreign fighter] brothers) not to leave the lands of the Caliphate for any reason in such difficult times, some of them chose this path which only leads to a harmful destiny,” it said.

MEMRI interpreted the message as evidence of desperation amid growing losses by ISIS. Kurdish forces say they have captured almost 900 foreign ISIS fighters, 500 ISIS wives and 1,000 children.

“Distributed in both Arabic and English, the poster reiterates the message issued by the media group warning fighters, and in particular foreign fighters, against leaving areas under ISIS control for any reason,” MEMRI wrote.


Photo released April 4, 2018 by the Kurdish YPG shows Kurdish fighters in northern Syria.


The Kurdish People’s Protection Units, or YPG, have said Ali was captured along with a German and a Turkish national “as a result of special operations conducted by our Anti-Terror Units.”

“The terrorist named Muhammad Ali, who is a Canadian citizen, was a one of the ISIS number one snipers,” the YPG said in a statement. “He trained thousands of terrorists in Hasakah, Raqqa and Deir ez-Zor and participated himself in dozens of criminal acts.”

It added that “via his social media accounts, he was encouraging people to join ISIS” and that following the “atrocious attacks” that killed two Canadian soldiers in 2014, he “called for increasing terrorist assaults, declaring that civilians or security personal (sic) should be killed as ‘infidels.’”

Ali does not yet face any charges in Canada.

The propaganda release contradicts Ali’s claim he had left ISIS and was on his way to Turkey when he was captured. Instead, it said that he and others were heading for Idlib, a city in northeast Syria where the last anti-regime rebels were fighting Russian-backed Syrian forces.

Abdulkarim Omar, a foreign affairs official in the self-administration that controls northeast Syria, said Kurdish forces wanted to send the foreign ISIS captives they are holding back to their own countries.

But he told Global News that, while there had been talks with Canadian diplomats months ago, “the Canadian government stopped this process and we don’t know why.”

Goodale says Canadian ISIS fighters will face consequences, officials won’t be put in danger to help

He said three Canadian ISIS fighters, two women and five children were being detained. “And the number might increase because the campaign to liberate the last pocket of ISIL in Deir ez-Zor is ongoing.”

“Some of them are citizens from both, [they] have Canadian and British citizenship,” he said, likely referring to Jack Letts, dubbed “Jihadi Jack” by the British press.

Global News has confirmed the identities of three Canadian men and three women with seven children. All are being held at makeshift prisons and detention camps in Syria’s northeast corner.

© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.


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‘Business as usual’ for Dorel Industries after terminating go-private deal




MONTREAL — Dorel Industries Inc. says it will continue to pursue its business strategy going forward after terminating an agreement to go private after discussions with shareholders.

« Moving ahead. Business as usual, » a spokesman for the company said in an email on Monday.

A group led by Cerberus Capital Management had previously agreed to buy outstanding shares of Dorel for $16 apiece, except for shares owned by the family that controls the company’s multiple-voting shares.

But Dorel chief executive Martin Schwartz said the Montreal-based maker of car seats, strollers, bicycles and home furniture pulled the plug on a deal on the eve of Tuesday’s special meeting after reviewing votes from shareholders.

“Independent shareholders have clearly expressed their confidence in Dorel’s future and the greater potential for Dorel as a public entity, » he said in a news release.

Dorel’s board of directors, with Martin Schwartz, Alan Schwartz, Jeffrey Schwartz and Jeff Segel recused, unanimously approved the deal’s termination upon the recommendation of a special committee.

The transaction required approval by two-thirds of the votes cast, and more than 50 per cent of the votes cast by non-family shareholders.

Schwartz said enhancing shareholder value remains a top priority while it stays focused on growing its brands, which include Schwinn and Mongoose bikes, Safety 1st-brand car seats and DHP Furniture.

Dorel said the move to end the go-private deal was mutual, despite the funds’ increased purchase price offer earlier this year.

It said there is no break fee applicable in this case.

Montreal-based investment firm Letko, Brosseau & Associates Inc. and San Diego’s Brandes Investment Partners LP, which together control more than 19 per cent of Dorel’s outstanding class B subordinate shares voiced their opposition to the amended offer, which was increased from the initial Nov. 2 offer of $14.50 per share.

« We believe that several minority shareholders shared our opinion, » said Letko vice-president Stephane Lebrun, during a phone interview.

« We are confident of the long-term potential of the company and we have confidence in the managers in place.”

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Pandemic funds helping Montreal businesses build for a better tomorrow




Many entrepreneurs have had to tap into government loans during the pandemic, at first just to survive, but now some are using the money to better prepare their businesses for the post-COVID future.

One of those businesses is Del Friscos, a popular family restaurant in Dollard-des-Ormeaux that, like many Montreal-area restaurants, has had to adapt from a sit-down establishment to one that takes orders online for takeout or delivery.

“It was hard going from totally in-house seating,” said Del Friscos co-owner Terry Konstas. “We didn’t have an in-house delivery system, which we quickly added. There were so many of our employees that were laid off that wanted to work so we adapted to a delivery system and added platforms like Uber and DoorDash.”

Helping them through the transition were emergency grants and low-interest loans from the federal and provincial governments, some of which are directly administered by PME MTL, a non-profit business-development organization established to assist the island’s small and medium-sized businesses.

Konstas said he had never even heard of PME MTL until a customer told him about them and when he got in touch, he discovered there were many government programs available to help his business get through the downturn and build for the future. “They’ve been very helpful right from day one,” said Konstas.

“We used some of the funds to catch up on our suppliers and our rents, the part that wasn’t covered from the federal side, and we used some of it for our new virtual concepts,” he said, referring to a virtual kitchen model which the restaurant has since adopted.

The virtual kitchen lets them create completely different menu items from the casual American Italian dishes that Del Friscos is known for and market them under different restaurant brand names. Under the Prasinó Soup & Salad banner, they sell healthy Greek options and their Stallone’s Sub Shop brand offers hearty sandwiches, yet the food from both is created in the same Del Friscos kitchen.

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Downtown Montreal office, retail vacancies continue to rise




Some of downtown Montreal’s key economic indicators are heading in the wrong direction.

Office and retail vacancies in the city’s central core continued to climb in the fourth quarter of 2020, according to a quarterly report released Thursday by the Urban Development Institute of Quebec and the Montréal Centre-Ville merchants association. The report, whose first edition was published in October, aims to paint a socio-economic picture of the downtown area.

The survey also found office space available for sublet had increased during the fourth quarter, which may foreshadow even more vacancies when leases expire. On the residential front, condo sales fell as new listings soared — a sign that the downtown area may be losing some of its appeal to homeowners.

“It’s impossible not to be preoccupied by the rapid increase in office vacancies,” Jean-Marc Fournier, the former Quebec politician who now heads the UDI, said Thursday in an interview.

Still, with COVID-19 vaccinations set to accelerate in the coming months, “the economic picture is bound to improve,” he said. “People will start returning downtown. It’s much too early to say the office market is going to disappear.”

Public health measures implemented since the start of the pandemic almost a year ago — such as caps on office capacity — have deprived downtown Montreal of more than 500,000 workers and students. A mere 4,163 university and CEGEP students attended in-person classes in the second quarter, the most recent period for which figures are available. Border closures and travel restrictions have also brought tourism to a standstill, hurting hotels and thousands of local businesses.

Seventy per cent of downtown workers carried out their professional activities at home more than three days a week during the fourth quarter, the report said, citing an online survey of 1,000 Montreal-area residents conducted last month.

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