Canada is wrong not to give asylum to U.S. war resisters
Canada accepted thousands of 'Nam dodgers but now threatens to deport
HENRY AUBIN, The Gazette
Published: Saturday, June 21
The federal government has ordered a deserter from the U.S. Army to
return to the United States by July 10. If he doesn't leave
voluntarily, the government will deport him.
Either way, Corey Glass, a former sergeant, would become the first
Iraq war resister to be booted out of Canada - thereby setting a
precedent for other U.S. war resisters who are seeking refuge in this country.
A majority of the House of Commons voted 137-110 two weeks ago in
favour of a motion urging the government to refrain from ousting war
resisters; about 100 of whom are believed to be in the Canada. All
three opposition parties supported the measure, sponsored by the New
Democrats' Olivia Chow. The Conservatives dissented.
Yet the motion seems futile. Nothing obliges Prime Minister Stephen
Harper to respect it - it's non-binding. And while polls suggest that
most Canadians support the resisters, as do such organizations as
Amnesty International and the United Church of Canada, the issue is
largely out of the public eye. This month's parliamentary motion, for
example, received scant news coverage.
This general apathy seems paradoxical. The Iraq war is, if anything,
even more unpopular among Canadians than was the Vietnam war. Tens of
thousands of U.S. draft dodgers and deserters fled to Canada during
that conflict, and the government and the public received them well.
Why shouldn't Canada be as open to resisters today as it was a
generation ago? The political answer, of course, is that Harper is
less willing to ruffle Washington's feathers than were the prime
ministers of the day, Lester Pearson and Pierre Trudeau.
The legal answer is that a well-founded fear of persecution is one of
the base criteria for granting refugee status, and the Immigration
and Refugee Board, the courts and Immigration Minister Diane Finley
have all rejected the resisters' claim that they would face
persecution if they returned home. I agree with Finley and company.
The U.S. military typically sentences Iraq war deserters (that is,
those who have not left the country) to jail terms that run to about
a year, and that's hardly a harrowing fate.
Yet the weakness of the persecution argument doesn't justify Canada's
rejection of the kind of people it once accepted. After all, the U.S.
didn't really persecute Vietnam war deserters either, and yet Canada
gave them asylum.
Those who want to expel the resisters make two moral arguments. Let's
look at each.
The first argument is that volunteers make up 100 per cent of today's
U.S. armed forces, which wasn't the case during 'Nam. "Why," the
National Post's Jonathan Kay asks in regard to Corey Glass, "should
Canadians help this deserter go back on his freely given word?"
That's technically true: Guys like Glass signed army contracts of
their free will. Yet they were deceived. The contractor - the U.S.
government - assured them this was a just war. The premises - that
Saddam had WMD and that he was in bed with Al-Qa'ida - turned out to be bogus.
Some deserters also claim, plausibly, that glib recruiters promised
them non-combat jobs if they signed up with the army. Wrong. More
Finally, the army has called still others back into additional tours
of Iraq under the Stop-loss program. That's like a back-door draft.
Free will? Come on.
The second moral argument is that the resisters are unjustly claiming
to be conscientious objectors. Real CO's are against all wars, say
the critics, and the resisters are against only this one war.
Yet to grant asylum only to those who are against all violent
conflicts is to set the bar unreasonably high. Most soldiers don't
think in terms of absolutes. They think in terms of their own direct
In court testimony and interviews, those resisters who have served in
Iraq suggest that the unjust war means there can be no excuse for the
horrors they have seen. That's a true show of conscience.
Critics of the resisters make one last argument, this one less moral
than practical. They say that giving asylum would be bad for troop
morale and thus undermine the U.S. war effort.
Think about that. If politicians knew that the citizenry would refuse
to fight if the reason for a war was not persuasive, they might
embark on fewer unjust wars - or, they might end such wars more
quickly, as was the case with the Vietnam conflict.
There aren't many checks and balances against military recklessness,
but easy asylum can be one of them.
Canadians Supporting U.S. War Resisters
Sunday, 22 June 2008
War Resisters - your chance to help the campaign
by War Resisters Support Campaign
Dear friends; the two things that we need help with most right now in
Vancouver are housing for war resisters and your participation in our
outreach and lobbying in Conservative ridings and keeping up the
Below is a housing appeal, please pass it on freely.
Also in Vancouver we will be doing another visit to a Conservative
riding, probably either Emerson's in Vancouver or Nina Grewal in
Fleetwood-Port Kells. That is tentatively planned for Saturday June 28.
As well, we would like to get to some Canada Day events with our
petitions and leaflets - there will be a National Day of Action to
call Immigration Minister Diane Finley on Wednesday July 2 - and July
1 would be a great day to get the word out. Please try to join us at
some of these activities!
War Resister Housing Appeal
Do you have an extra-room or a fold-out couch in your home? Do you
want to help end the war in Iraq? Would you like to see Canada, once
again, become a sanctuary for American soldiers refusing to
participate in an illegal war?
If you answered yes to the questions above, the War Resisters Support
Campaign in Vancouver needs you!
The War Resisters Support Campaign helps American soldiers who have
come to Canada seeking sanctuary. These young men and women face
imprisonment in the US because they obeyed their conscience.
They turned their backs on George Bush's war.
We need volunteers to house US war resister for a few days to a few
months, while we help them to get settled in and work their way
through the refugee immigration process.
Right now in Vancouver we are in urgent need of housing for two war resisters.
If you can house a war resister in the lower mainland, for at least
a week starting this week please contact James Leslie at
email@example.com or (604) 736-9804
After Friday June 20, 2008 call or email Sarah Bjorknas at
778-837-1475 or firstname.lastname@example.org
For more info, or to volunteer housing in other parts of BC or the
rest of Canada, please see our website www.resisters.ca
Dear Campaigners; As you know, on June 3, the House of Commons did a
pretty important thing. The MPs voted 137-110 for the War Resisters
Motion, which would make it possible for the war resisters to apply
for permanent residence in Canada, and which would stop the
deportation of any of them, including Corey Glass, whose deadline to
"leave or be removed" is now July 10.
The CBC and Newsworld, had a 7-minute report the previous Sunday
(June 1), with Terry Milewski, a prominent reporter, anchoring the
story. It was a great piece, and it mentioned that the vote would
take place on the following Tuesday.
Then, on Tuesday, NOTHING -- NADA -- ZERO -- ZILCH!
MEDIA COVERAGE NOW IS SUPER IMPORTANT IF WE ARE TO GET THE
CONSERVATIVES TO IMPLEMENT THE WAR RESISTERS MOTION.
PLEASE TAKE THE TIME TO DROP A LINE TO THE CBC AT
http://www.cbc.ca/contact/ AND LET THEM KNOW YOU WANT
MORE COVERAGE OF THE WAR RESISTERS ISSUE!
And by the way -- don't be shy about writing to your local media, or
to "national" media like the Globe & Mail, which has ignored the
story except for a teensy little paragraph that whispered "don't read
this" the day after the vote.
The Tories would love this issue to disappear from view. Don't let
them have their way.
War Resisters Support Campaign
c/o 1143 E Pender St
Vancouver BC V6A
U. S. Army deserter: Let me stay in Canada
by Corey Glass
June 17, 2008
Recently, BBC News producers asked the National Post's Jonathan Kay
to debate Corey Glass -- a "conscientious objector" who fled U. S.
military service and now lives in Toronto -- on the question of
whether American military deserters should be sent back to the United
States. Here is the text of their exchange, as it appears on the BBC
News Web site.
In 2002, I joined the Indiana National Guard. When I joined, I was
told I would only be in combat if there were troops occupying the
I signed up to defend people and do humanitarian work filling
sandbags if there was a hurricane. I had no conception I would be
deployed to fight on foreign shores.
Through this job I had access to a lot of information about what was
happening on the ground in Iraq. I realized innocent people were
being killed unjustly and I tried to quit the military while in Iraq.
My commander told me I was stressed out and needed R&R, because I was
doing a job I was not trained to do.
I went home on leave and said I was not coming back. I was told
desertion is punishable by death. I was Absent Without Leave (AWOL)
in America for eight months.
I searched the Internet and found out about U. S. war resisters in
Canada. I arrived in Toronto two weeks later.
I should have been in New Orleans after Katrina, not in Iraq. I
believe the Iraq War is illegal and morally wrong. I believe I have a
duty to refuse to take part in a war not sanctioned by the United
Nations, started on the basis of lies.
I have been in Toronto since August, 2006. In my time here, I have
been self-sufficient and I have made many friends. I have built a life here.
Last week I was in Ottawa, when the House of Commons passed a motion
saying that the Canadian government should make it possible for
conscientious objectors to get permanent residence in Canada. The
motion also said that all deportation proceedings against us should be stopped.
But I may be deported anyway. On May 21, I was told that my last
chance to stay in Canada had failed, and I must leave by June 12
(since extended to July 10). I know that if I return to the U. S. I
will face imprisonment and possibly a criminal record.
I don't think it is fair that I should be returned to the U. S. to
face unjust punishment for doing what I felt morally obligated to do.
I am hoping that Canada, which stayed out of the Iraq War for reasons
similar to my own, will reverse the deportation order and let me
stay, as parliament has urged.
There are several dozen other war resisters like me in Canada now.
They all deserve to stay here and get on with their lives.
I hope the new American president will end the Iraq War and bring the
troops home. But until that happens, I believe it is every soldier's
right to refuse to take part in that war, if that is what his or her
conscience says they must do.