Area residents gather at U of T to hear 10 young Americans' plea for amnesty
BY LIAM LAHEY
May 22, 2008
U.S. Iraq war resister Corey Glass was told by Citizenship and
Immigration Canada recently that his application to stay here has
been rejected and he now faces deportation in three weeks.
If deported, the Parkdale resident would be the first American war
resister to be sent back to the U.S. since the late 1960s when
Canadian border officials physically carried a man attempting to
dodge the Vietnam draft back over the Peace Bridge and deposited him
at the feet of U.S. officials. That event caused an uproar in Canada,
and led to then prime minister Pierre Elliot Trudeau declaring
immigration officials would no longer ask any American about their
Glass, 25, came to Canada in August 2006 after serving in Iraq. He
made his move after the U.S. implemented its "stop-loss" policy - the
involuntary extension of a member's active duty under the enlistment
contract in order to retain them beyond their initial term of service.
"I came here because Canada did not join the Iraq War ... I knew
Canada had welcomed many Americans during the Vietnam War," he said.
Dressed in a black suit and looking emotionally spent, he joined nine
other American war resisters discussing their plight to remain in
Canada at a community forum on May 21 at the Innis Town Hall at the
University of Toronto.
After serving eight months in Iraq before going absent without leave,
Joshua Key, author of A Deserter's Tale, arrived in Toronto in 2005
seeking refuge after being repeatedly lied to by the military, he said.
"I joined (the U.S. Army) in 2002 primarily for health care and
steady pay," Key said. "I was raising my family (Key has three young
sons) in Oklahoma City at the time and I couldn't cut the bills. ...
I was told I wouldn't be sent overseas ... I should have gotten a
magnifying glass and read the fine print (of his enlistment contract)
and told them to 'Hold on'."
Kimberley Rivera, the first female American war deserter in history
and a mother of two, was shipped to Baghdad in August 2006 where she
served as a guard searching civilians and vehicles. Upon being
notified she would be sent back to Iraq for a second tour of duty,
she and her family packed up and left their home in Mesquite, Texas,
in February 2007 and drove to Toronto.
"I wasn't truly sorry for joining (the army) until witnessing some of
the things I did in Iraq," she said. "The way families were destroyed
... and what it did to children there impacted me. ... I felt
helpless. ... I'm a mom and that's your basic instinct: to protect children."
It is estimated that several hundred Iraq War resisters are currently
hiding in Canada. Beyond the shame of being regarded as criminals at
home, some also face being ostracized by their own families.
"My dad thinks I'm a coward and a traitor and my mother simply
doesn't understand," said army deserter Steve Yoczick, whose father
served in the U.S. Marine Corp. in Vietnam.
Trinity-Spadina MP Olivia Chow told the audience if the Liberal party
would do as the Bloc Quebecois has and supported her motion to
prevent American war resisters from being sent stateside the issue
could be formally introduced into the House of Commons and debated publicly.
"If (Liberal leader) Stephane Dion were to say tomorrow that he
supports this motion ... we will then debate it," she said. "So we
need people to call Mr. Dion ... 'whose side you on Mr. Dion'?"
Etobicoke Centre MP Borys Wrzesnewskyj was also in attendance. He
suggested it would take more from the public than placing a phone
call or sending an e-mail.
"A motion does not compel the government to act ... a resolution
does," he said. "If you have a majority of Parliamentarians
supporting a resolution it would (move the issue forward) ... it's
something we wouldn't want to do until the time is right; when the
public sends us a strong signal."
As the forum wound down, one young man stood up and identified
himself as a U.S. war deserter from Illinois who's been hiding in
Toronto for the last two weeks. He, too, appeared to be emotionally
exhausted. But he also looked genuinely relieved to be surrounded by
supporters and friends from home facing a similar, uncertain future.
Visit the Toronto-based War Resisters Support Campaign at
www.resisters.ca for details.