American War Resisters in Canada
A number of American military deserters have come to Canada for refuge. This option under the current rules is very difficult. After making their case in an Immigration hearing and exhausting appeals through the courts there is a good chance they will be sent back to the US.
This week the Supreme Court of Canada has refused to hear appeals by two former soldiers and their families. They do not want to hear cases on the basis that the war in Iraq is illegal and to participate in it is a possible war crime. I think this is regretable for the Canadian government officially views the war in Iraq as illegal. http://www.commondreams.org/archive/2007/11/16/5266/
After the Supreme Court rules a war resister can appeal to Parliament for special refuge in Canada on humanitarian grounds. http://www.commondreams.org/news2007/1115-05.htm
Canada needs to offer American deserters refuge. We need to welcome and support those who out of conscience have decided they cannot participate in an illegal war.
Offering refuge to Americans who feel they can no longer tolerate a condition in their country is part of Canada's tradition. Large parts of Eastern and Central Canada were settle by United Empire Loyalists, who remained loyal to the Crown after the American Revolution. Canada took in fugative slaves as the terminus of the Underground Railroad, and offered they legal protection and citizenship. During the Vietnam War, Canada took in American Draft Dodgers and Deserters, some 50, 000, in all. Overwelmingly, these refugees found acceptance among us, found they shared our Canadian values and culture and made lives for themselves here contibuting to Canadian society. The current few American Deserters who decided to try to come to Canada, in spite of the difficulty of our Immigration system deserve our welcome. our support and our respect for their decision of conscience.
During the years of the Vietnam War American could easily get into Canada by applying at the border. This made it possible for thousands of American young men to come. ( If you want to watch the CBC's many programs on them go to the archives http://archives.cbc.ca/IDD-1-71-348/conflict_war/draft_dodgers/)
In spite of the high number of deserters from the American (voluntary) military only a few hundred felt Canada might be an option. Unlike these Vietnam Era refugees the current group have served in the military and even spent time in Iraq or Afghanistan. It is out of their experiences they have come to the conclusion they cannot participate. The Amercian military defines "conscientious objector" so narrowly that acquiring that status for a particular war is not possible. Hence, to avoid participating in an illegal war many soldiers have deserted, a few to Canada. http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/n/a/2007/11/16/national/w084725S32.DTL
Each one of these former soldiers and his family have made an agonizing decision. It is not easy to decide your beloved country has wrongly gone to war, and, to turn one's back on one's country to try to begin over in another. Their stories are worth reading. http://www.resisters.ca/resisters_stories.html
Here is the story of a veteran of the Iraq War and a member of the famous 101st Airborne Army unit. Patrick Hart and his wife Jill are nothing you would imagine a deserter to be.
http://artvoice.com/issues/v5n10/brave_hart I would hope for them and the others that Canadians will put political pressure on the current Conservative Government ( which sadly seems to try to engratiate itself to the Bush Administration) to honour our tradition of offering refuge to Americans, and make it possible for them to stay.