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NEWS: Harper government directive paints war resisters as criminals

The Globe and Mail reports this morning that, “The Harper government is painting U.S. military deserters as criminals in a new directive to immigration officials… The new directive, issued in a July 22 operational bulletin, emphasizes the criminal nature of desertion in Canada and the United States, which stands to make it harder for American deserters to gain permanent residency in Canada. ‘Consequently, persons who have deserted the military in their country of origin may be inadmissible to Canada under … the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act,’ the bulletin says.”

The Globe and Mail adds that, as a result, “Citizenship and Immigration Canada has moved to centralize all current cases of military deserters in its systems, and has told the officials in charge of the files to consult their superiors on the way to handle them.”

This is outrageous and unacceptable.

As noted in past campaign blogs and action alerts:

HOUSE OF COMMONS: On June 3, 2008, a War Resisters Support Campaign media release stated, “The Opposition parties in the House of Commons joined together today to adopt a recommendation which, if implemented, would make it possible for U.S. Iraq War resisters to obtain Permanent Resident status in Canada. The recommendation was adopted by a majority of Members of Parliament from the Liberal, Bloc Québécois, and New Democratic Parties. The Conservatives voted against the motion.” The release stated, “The motion, which originated in the House of Commons Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration in December 2007, calls on the government to ‘immediately implement a program to allow conscientious objectors and their immediate family members…to apply for permanent resident status and remain in Canada; and…the government should immediately cease any removal or deportation actions…against such individuals.’” Bloomberg reported that the vote in the House was 137 to 110.

PUBLIC OPINION: On June 27, 2008, it was reported that, “A majority of Canadians would agree with the decision to let American military deserters stay in Canada as permanent residents, a new Angus Reid Strategies survey reveals…In the online survey of a representative national sample, three-in-five Canadians (64%) say they would agree to give these U.S. soldiers the opportunity to remain in Canada as permanent residents.”

FEDERAL COURT OF CANADA: On July 4, 2008, Canadian Press reported that, “Canada’s refugee board has been ordered to take another look at an American deserter’s failed bid for asylum in an unprecedented court ruling that could affect scores of other U.S. soldiers who’ve refused to fight in Iraq. In a decision released Friday, the Federal Court found the Immigration and Refugee Board had erred in turning down Joshua Key’s claim for asylum…In its decision, the board decided that while Key may have had to violate the Geneva Conventions in Iraq, he could not claim refugee status because he was not required to systematically commit war crimes. Federal Court Justice Robert Barnes disagreed with that analysis. A soldier who refuses to take part in military action which ’systematically degrades, abuses or humiliates’ either combatants or non-combatants might qualify as a refugee, Barnes wrote. ‘Officially condoned military misconduct falling well short of a war crime may support a claim to refugee protection.’”

The Council of Canadians continues to call on the federal government to allow U.S. war resisters to stay in Canada.

We encourage you to support Bill C-440, legislation that would allow war resisters to stay in Canada. The Globe and Mail reports today that, “Liberal MP Gerard Kennedy said the government is sending a message to its officials before the House of Commons studies his bill in September that would allow the war resisters to remain in Canada on compassionate and humanitarian grounds. …MPs have already voted to support war resisters, but that was through motions that are not binding on the government. Mr. Kennedy’s bill would be binding because it would amend the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act.”

More on C-440 at http://canadians.org/campaignblog/?p=1906 and http://letthemstay.ca/action/email-your-mp/. We also encourage you to support the War Resisters Support Campaign at http://www.resisters.ca/index_en.html.

Today’s Globe and Mail news report is at http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/federal-directive-toughens-stand-on-us-deserters-in-canada/article1660842/.