FACT CHECK: Is Hussam Eddin Alzahabi one of the “Unattached” Syrians Trudeau “Wouldn’t Allow In"?
FALSE. Alzahabi, who was arrested in relation to an alleged bomb plot in Kingston, Ontario, last week, arrived in Canada two years ago with his family. They were sponsored as refugees by a Kingston church group.
Last week, two people were arrested in relation to an alleged terrorist plot in Kingston, Ontario. A minor, whose identity is protected by a publication ban, faces terrorism charges including “knowingly facilitating a terrorist activity,” and “counselling someone to use an explosive or other lethal device to cause death or serious bodily injury.” The other person arrested, according to the Toronto Star, is twenty-year-old Hussam Eddin Alzahabi, a “friend” and “classmate” of the minor. No charges were laid against Alzahabi, and he has been released from police custody, though the police investigation is still ongoing.
Last Friday, on an episode of The Ezra Levant Show for Rebel Media, Ezra Levant speculated about Alzahabi’s arrest and involvement in the alleged plot, saying that Alzahabi was one of the “young, single, unattached, military-aged, Muslim men from Syria” whom the Canadian government had recently allowed into Canada. “Trudeau specifically said he wouldn’t do that but he did.”
Levant’s characterization of Alzahabi and the Trudeau government’s refugee policies are false. It’s true that Alzahabi is young and of “military age” as described by the Canadian government (between the ages of eighteen and fifty-five). The Star reported that he is Muslim and originally from Syria, though he came to Canada via Kuwait. However, Alzahabi did not arrive in Canada alone. As CTV News and the CBC have both reported, he and his family came two years ago as Syrian refugees through a private sponsorship program led by a church committee, including Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in Kingston.
In 2015, the Liberal government unveiled Operation Syrian Refugee, a resettlement initiative in response to the growing refugee crisis. The initiative prioritized the resettlement of women, children, families, and LGBTI individuals. “Single adult males of fighting age” were not considered during first wave of resettlements. Unaccompanied minors, separated children, and “persons inadmissible under Canadian legislation (e.g. polygamous marriages, security concerns)” were also not included. The purpose of these exclusions, according to a document released by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada in 2018, was to identify the “most vulnerable persons, while aiming to screen out those more likely to pose risks.” Because Alzahabi arrived with his family, there’s no reason to believe that these restrictions would apply to him.
An individual or family can claim refugee status in Canada and be sponsored by the government, an organization, or a mix of both for multiple reasons—including “a well-founded fear of persecution based on race, religion, political opinion, nationality, or membership in a particular social group,” as outlined in Canada’s Immigration and Citizenship guidelines and in the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act. According to the sponsor of Alzahabi’s family, they had been fleeing the Bashar al-Assad regime in Syria. Prior to leaving the country, he says, their home had been destroyed, and Alzahabi’s father had been imprisoned for refusing to join the Syrian President’s party.