A Canadian veteran who traveled to Iraq to join Kurdish militias in their fight against the Islamic State (IS) group has returned home, his parents have said.
Dillon Hillier, 26, had worked as a welder in Alberta and is one of about six former Canadian forces personnel who are thought to have joined the Kurds to fight IS militants.
Hillier, who previously fought in Afghanistan, left his home in Calgary in November and joined the Kurdish Peshmerga militia, saying that he "just felt it was the right thing to do since they're facing some pretty tough times."
On January 27, Hillier's parents, Jane and Randy Hillier, posted a joint statement on Facebook saying that he had returned home to Canada.
"Jane and I would like to express our deep appreciation to all those who contacted us, offering their thoughtful and generous support to our son Dillon while he was engaged alongside the Peshmerga in Iraqi Kurdistan against the Islamic State (ISIL). We are proud and relieved that Dillon has returned safely home from the middle-east [sic]," the statement read.
In December, Hillier featured in a video posted on the Facebook page of the 1st North American Expeditionary Force (1st NAEF), a support group for Canadian veterans who want to join Kurdish militias.
The video shows a man identified as Hillier helping to bandage another fighter who seems to be seriously wounded. In a text accompanying the video, Hillier said he had "accomplished more good in those 20 hours than the previous 26 years of my life."
Although Hillier has returned home from Iraq, the 1st NAEF continues to work to support other Canadians who want to join the Kurds in the fight against the IS group. On January 22, the group announced via its Facebook page that it had sent a delegate, Tony Sinnott, to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland to liaise on behalf of the 1st NAEF.
Earlier this month, the 1st NAEF said that it was finalizing the establishment of a memorandum of understanding with the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in Iraq, which aimed to "provide volunteers with safety and security beyond what we had initially hoped possible and ensure the most effective positioning of volunteers with the needs of the Peshmerga."
The group's new website says that the 1st NAEF's specialist volunteers will deliver instruction and support to the Peshmerga "to attain professionalism towards NATO standards." The website lists a number of "potential areas of capacity building," including "advanced marksmanship, human rights and international laws of war, and explosives ordinance detection and disposal.
Canadian news sources have reported that military and government officials have given mixed messages on the legality of Canadians fighting with the Kurds, however.
Canadian Chief of Defense Staff Tom Lawson said in November that he did not encourage Canadians to go to other countries to fight with the militaries of other nations. Those who wanted to combat the IS group should re-enlist in the Canadian Forces, he said.
Canadian special forces in Iraq have exchanged fire with IS militants twice in the past week and are the first Western country to say that its ground troops have fought the extremists.
Meanwhile, a Canadian convert from Ottawa who fought alongside the IS group was reported killed in Kobani on January 15.
Twenty-four-year-old John Maguire, who changed his name to Abu Anwar al-Canadi ("The Canadian"), had previously appeared in a December 7 IS video in which he called on Canadian Muslims to carry out "indiscriminate attacks" against civilians.
-- Joanna Paraszczuk