War Resisters: Parliament says yes, government says no
In a significant – although ultimately symbolic – victory, American war resisters who have sought sanctuary in Canada received the support of parliament to stay. After an extensive and hard fought public campaign, U.S. soldiers who have fled their country over their objections to the war in Iraq saw
But the down side is that all 110 votes against came from the Conservative Party, who make up the government. Because the vote was not binding, whether the estimated 200 American war resisters are allowed to stay in the country still remains at the whim of the government, and that government has so far given a resounding no.
The motion in parliament, brought by the New Democratic Party, comes as war resister Corey Glass faces deportation on June 12th. Glass and other resisters have seen their application for refugee status refused, and the courts reject their request for appeal. A central reason for the rejection of their appeals has been the court’s refusal to hear arguments that the war in Iraq is illegal.
And yet, under United Nations guidelines, “Soldiers who refuse to fight in wars that are widely condemned by the international community as contrary to standards of human conduct should be considered as refugees.” It’s hard to believe that the war in Iraq doesn’t fall under this category.
The War Resisters Support Campaign is now asking backers to contact the offices of Immigration Minister Diane Finley and Prime Minister Stephen Harper directly in a last chance bid to let them stay. If deported, many face certain reprisal, including court martial hearings and possible jail time.
Canada has a significant history of providing asylum to American war resisters: Over 30,000 Americans fled to Canada to avoid serving in the Vietnam War, receiving refugee status and many eventually becoming citizens.