Charman Smith, a woman from the Carcross-Tagish First Nation, faces an uncertain future in Turkey while on temporary release from prison.
Smith was sentenced on drug charges in 2016, and according to a statement from the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples (CAP) she has now been temporarily released from the women’s prison she had been held in due to COVID-19 concerns. According to the CAP, Smith faces the risk of homelessness without assistance from the Canadian government or the means to work in Turkey.
The CAP, whose stated mission is representing the interests of Métis, Inuit and Indigenous people living off-reserve, has taken up Smith’s cause. They are putting pressure on the government of Canada to bring her home.
“Currently, Ms. Smith is not allowed to leave the country without Canada authorizing her transfer as she has not completed her sentence,” the June 2 statement from the CAP reads.
“Ms. Smith’s access to critical medication has been suspended and her chronic diseases have the potential to become fatal in the circumstances she is in.”
In comments attached to the CAP’s June 2 statement, Smith says she was given less than two weeks notice to find a place to live and they are no longer paying for her medication or food.
“When I was first incarcerated, the consulate did not even know there was a repatriation agreement between Turkey and Canada. The consulate said they don’t know where my transfer request is at, and they’re not willing to do the research to bring me home. Another Canadian I know has been waiting four years for their transfer,” Smith says.
The CAP states that the federal government has dropped the ball in this case and noted that they have been supporting Smith directly on humanitarian grounds.
“We’ve seen a blatant disregard for the well-being of Charman from the Canadian Government over the last few months. The Embassy of Canada to Turkey has decided to cut all support for Ms. Smith without a process in place to bring her home,” the statement reads.
A statement from Global Affairs Canada says Smith is receiving assistance during her release.
“Global Affairs Canada is aware of the case of a Canadian citizen on temporary release while serving a sentence in Turkey,” it reads.
“Consular officials in Turkey have been providing ongoing consular assistance to the citizen since their initial detention and throughout their temporary release.”
Global Affairs would not comment further.
Requests to the CAP for further information about Smith’s situation were not returned.
Contact Jim Elliot at firstname.lastname@example.org