Canadian PM responds to schoolgirl-smuggling spy scandal
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has said his government will “follow up” on recent reports that a Canadian intelligence officer helped traffic British schoolgirls into Syria in 2015, at least one of whom ended up marrying an Islamic State fighter.
Speaking to reporters at a news conference on Wednesday, Trudeau acknowledged that the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) must abide by Canadian laws and “strict rules” of conduct, and vowed to ensure that “proper oversight is done as necessary.”
However, he added that intelligence services need to be “flexible and creative in their approaches” to keep Canada and Canadians safe “in a very dangerous world.”
The PM’s response comes after a recent book titled “The Secret History of the Five Eyes” by award-winning investigative journalist Richard Kerbaj, claimed that a Canadian spy had smuggled UK-born Shamima Begum and a couple of her friends into Syria in 2015.
Begum, who was 15 at the time, along with her school friends Kadiza Sultana, 16 and Amira Abase,15, all joined the Islamic State terrorist organization after they arrived in the country and allegedly married IS fighters.
It is believed that Sultana and Abase have since been killed, while Begum made national news as she attempted to return to the UK and regain her British citizenship, which was revoked under a UK Supreme Court ruling in 2019.
According to Kerbaj, the three schoolgirls were trafficked into Syria from Turkey in March 2015 by a man called Mohammed al-Rashed, who had worked as an informant for Canadian intelligence and allegedly smuggled dozens of other British nationals to fight for IS.
The book claims that Rashed told his Canadian handlers that Begum had traveled to Syria four days after she left the UK to join the terrorist organization, while the Metropolitan police launched a desperate search for the girls. Neither Canadian nor British authorities acknowledged that this link was made.
Kerbaj claims CSIS covered up its connection with the Begum case for seven years, saying: “taking refuge in the one thing that protects all intelligence agencies... against potential embarrassment: secrecy.”
UK and Canadian intelligence officials have so far declined to respond to Kerbaj’s claims, citing an inability to comment on operational matters.