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‘Jihadi Jack’ tells U.K. broadcaster he misses his mother, wants to return to Oxford

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Jack Letts, the young British-Canadian man accused of travelling to Syria to fight for ISIS, has told British broadcaster ITV News that he misses his mum, the TV show Doctor Who and the taste of English snacks. 

In an interview filmed in a Kurdish jail, “Jihadi Jack” as he is commonly known, also said that at the time of the 2015 Paris theatre attacks by Islamic militants, he thought the murderous rampage that killed 130 people was a “good thing.”

“To be honest, like I said, if I am going to start a new part of my life I don’t want to start it on a lie,” Letts, 23, told ITV News security editor Rohit Kachroo. “To be honest, at the time, I thought it was a good thing.

He said he was living in Raqqa, Syria, at the time and was “getting bombed every five minutes by coalition jets … literally, I’ve seen children burned alive.” 

“At the time, you have this idea … of why shouldn’t it happen to them … but then I realized they had nothing to do with it.”

While living in Raqqa, the former hub for ISIS power in the region, Letts said that he saw murders and executions and was repulsed by them. 

Letts, a Muslim convert who grew up in Oxford, travelled to Syria in 2014. He told ITV News that he left Raqqa and tried to travel overland to Turkey where he intended to live out his life but was arrested by Kurdish forces and transferred to a prison in Qamishli in northern Syria, along the Turkish border.

Not seeking return to Canada

Letts’ father is Canadian. He told ITV News that he had a Canadian passport through his father at one point but is unsure if it is still valid. He said he is not seeking to return to Canada.  

“I feel British, I am British. My dad’s Canadian, if the U.K. accepted me I would go back to the U.K., it’s my home, but I don’t think that is going to happen,” he told ITV News.

“I don’t think I’m going to be given … back to Britain, for example … or some Canadian official is going to come and help me because like I said —  no one really cares.” 

Letts said would be willing to remain in his Kurdish prison for another two years or longer so female prisoners could be sent home first.

Missing England

While he misses the traditional English meat-filled pastry and episodes of Doctor Who what he wants most is to see his mother.

“I miss my mum. I know that sounds a bit toddler-ish,” he said. “Even if I could just see my mum —  I would like just a phone call, I don’t know if Britain can do that for me here, but I’d like just a phone call to my mum —  it’s been two years.”

Letts has been accused of being a member of ISIS. It is an allegation his father John Letts disputes, pointing out that both the U.K. and Canada have yet to lay charges against him.

His parents say he wanted to come home in late 2015 and their attempt to transfer him money ran afoul of Britain’s anti-terror financing law. They were charged under that law in 2016; they maintain their innocence, but the case is still pending.

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‘Too soon to celebrate’ Ottawa’s low case count, says Etches

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Ottawa Public Health (OPH) logged just 11 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday, the lowest daily total since Sept. 1.

Because of the lag between testing and reporting, the low number could simply reflect low turnout at the city’s testing sites on weekends — all month, new case counts have been lower on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. 

During a virtual news conference Tuesday, the city’s medical officer of health Dr. Vera Etches said she doesn’t read too much into a single day’s report.

“I don’t think we can make too much of 11. Actually, it could be a lot higher tomorrow — I would expect that, on average,” she said. “It’s too soon to celebrate.”

Provincewide, public health officials reported 1, 249 new cases Tuesday.

OPH also declared 62 cases resolved Tuesday, lowering the number of known active cases in the city to 462. Two more people have died, both in care homes currently experiencing outbreaks, raising the city’s COVID-19 death toll to 361. 

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Santa Claus isn’t coming to Ottawa’s major malls this year

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Santa Claus may still be coming to town this Christmas, but he won’t be dropping by any of Ottawa’s major malls, thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic.

On Friday, Cadillac Fairview said Santa won’t be making an appearance at any of its 19 malls across Canada, including Rideau Centre in downtown Ottawa. On Tuesday, Bayshore and St. Laurent shopping centres confirmed they, too, are scrapping the annual tradition.

“Due to the evolution of the situation in regards to COVID-19, we have made the difficult decision to cancel our Santa Program and Gift Wrap Program this year,” Bayshore spokesperson Sara Macdonald wrote in an email to CBC.

Macdonald said parent company Ivanhoé Cambridge cancelled all holiday activities “due to the rising number of COVID-19 cases across the country.”

Macdonald said families that had already booked an appointment to visit Santa will receive an email with more information.  

Virtual visits with Santa

Rideau Centre said based on customer research and discussions with public health officials, its North Pole is going online this year.

“Children will be able to have a private chat with Santa,” said Craig Flannagan, vice-president of marketing for Cadillac Fairview. “You’ll also be able to join a 15-minute storytime with Santa over Facebook Live.” 

At Place d’Orléans Shopping Centre, visitors are invited to take a “selfie with Santa” — actually, a life-size cutout of Santa Pierre, the man who’s been playing Santa at the east end mall for years.

“We understand that this is not ideal, but in lieu of this tradition we will be doing what we can to maintain and encourage holiday cheer,” according to a statement on the mall’s Facebook page.

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Ottawa Bylaw breaks up two large parties in Ottawa over the weekend

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OTTAWA — Ottawa Bylaw is investigating social gatherings of more than 10 people in private homes across Ottawa last weekend.

Mayor Jim Watson tells Newstalk 580 CFRA that Ottawa Bylaw broke-up two house parties over the weekend, with 20 to 25 people at each party.

“That’s the kind of stupidity that angers me, that’s where the bulk of the transmissions are taking place, if we exclude the tragedy of the long-term care homes; it’s these house parties with unrelated people,” said Watson on Newstalk 580 CFRA’s Ottawa at Work with Leslie Roberts.

“The message doesn’t seem to be getting through, particularly to some young people who think they’re invincible.”

In a statement to CTV News Ottawa, Bylaw and Regulatory Services Director Roger Chapman says, “There are still ongoing investigations from this past weekend that could result in charges.”

Chapman says recent investigations led to two charges being issued for social gatherings of more than 10 people in a private residence in contravention of the Reopening Ontario Act.

“In one case, up to 30 individuals were observed attending a house party in Ward 18 on Oct. 24,” said Chapman.

“The second charge was issued following a house party in Ward 16 on Oct. 31, where up to 16 individuals were observed to be in attendance.”

The fine is $880 for hosting an illegal gathering.

Alta Vista is Ward 18, while Ward 16 is River Ward.

Ottawa Bylaw has issued 24 charges for illegal gatherings since the start of the pandemic.

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