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NEWS: War resister Hinzman wins Federal Court appeal

The Canwest News Service reports today that, “The federal government’s bid to deport an American war deserter from Canada has been dealt a blow by the Federal Court of Appeal.”

“In a unanimous decision Tuesday by the three-judge panel, the court ruled that an immigration officer’s decision rejecting Jeremy Hinzman’s application for permanent residence in Canada was ‘significantly flawed and therefore unreasonable.'”

“Hinzman served in Afghanistan in 2002 and 2003. He applied for conscientious objector status when the Iraq war began but was denied. …The U.S. soldier arrived in Toronto in 2004 in protest of the Iraq war and is seeking a bid to stay on humanitarian and compassionate grounds. …In 2008, he was ordered deported. …His lawyer, Alyssa Manning, told Canwest News Service the appeal was made on the basis that the immigration officer did not take into account Hinzman’s beliefs and motivations — including a belief that the Iraq war violated international laws and human rights — in returning the humanitarian and compassionate decision.”

The Toronto Star reports that this decision means “officials must another look at Hinzman’s application to remain in Canada on humanitarian and compassionate grounds.”

Jeremy Hinzman and Maude Barlow in 2005

Jeremy Hinzman and Maude Barlow in 2005

In November 2005, the Council of Canadians presented Jeremy Hinzman with our Activist of the Year award at our annual general meeting. At that time, he said, “I am here tonight to accept this award on behalf of the War Resisters’ Support Campaign. It is not just me, it is not just the other people I am here with – this transcends all of us. It’s about giving people of conscience a safe place to come to and a safe place to make a life where they don’t have to live with the scarlet letter – saying they don’t have to be complicit and stay in an illegal and unjust war, and hence become war criminals.”

As noted in past campaign blogs and Council of Canadians 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.'”

TAKE ACTION Despite the House of Commons vote, public opinion supporting war resisters, and the past Federal Court of Canada finding, today’s Canwest News Service article reports that, “Since 2008, Canada has ordered the deportation of as many as seven U.S. war deserters and their families.”

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. More on that 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.