Contents: The Sir! No Sir! blog is an information clearing house, drawing on a wide variety of sources, to track the unfolding history of the new GI Movement, and the wars that brought the movement to life.
Where applicable, parallels will be drawn between the new movement and the Vietnam era movement which was the focus of the film Sir! No Sir!
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This article, by Ed Corrigan, was published in The Hamilton Spectator, October 16, 2009.
Members of Parliament Gerard Kennedy and Bill Siksay introduced a private member's bill last month in support of Iraq War resisters. Bill C-440 would make binding on our government very specific directions -- to immediately stop the deportation of Iraq War resisters and to allow them to apply for permanent resident status from within Canada.
Since then, conservative pundits have likened veterans of the Iraq War who have refused to participate in atrocities on Iraqi civilians, and conscientious objectors who cannot morally let themselves kill another human being, to anti-abortion extremists who shoot doctors. Some have even suggested the bill should be contorted to include sanctuary for the criminally indicted U.S. financiers that caused the current recession.
For any rational Canadian, these comparisons are ludicrous at best. Along with Immigration Minister Jason Kenney's spokesperson's hyperbole about "rapists and murderers," they are part of a campaign by the Harper minority to distract from, distort and deny the reality that Bill C-440 responds to a demand by the majority of Canadians in every part of the country, reflected in a similar motion that has already been debated and passed twice in Parliament.
Nonetheless, these criticisms have been levelled and they deserve a response.
The term "conscientious objector" doesn't refer to anyone who objects to anything for any random reason; conscientious objector specifically and only means a member or former member of the military holding certain sincerely held beliefs.
The bill only covers soldiers who refused to participate in wars not sanctioned by the United Nations. Iraq is such a war.
There are good reasons why the majority of Canadians, including Conservative voters, supports these U.S. soldiers who are opposing the Iraq War.
First, Iraq War resisters are refusing to kill, injure or generally do harm to others. Many of them have seen firsthand the U.S. military's treatment of all Iraqi civilians as the "enemy" -- a practice prohibited under international law -- as both morally and tactically bankrupt. When these soldiers have raised objections, their superiors have told them to shut up and just follow orders. Refusing to participate is the only effective method of objection under such conditions.
Second, Iraq War resisters are breaking no Canadian laws. Leaving the military service of another country is not an extraditable offence here nor should it be. Canada welcomed U.S. deserters during the Vietnam War, we're still a sovereign country and we can and should do it again.
Despite the Harper government's desire to model Canada after George W. Bush's America, it has no mandate or authority to turn Canada into an enforcement agent for the martial law of any other nation.
Third, the Harper government's deportation of these soldiers to jail in the United States is an endorsement of the Bush legacy and an attack on free speech. Iraq War resisters are not being punished for desertion, which 94 per cent of time results in an administrative discharge, but targeted for speaking out. Even with President Barack Obama in office, as many as 50,000 troops will remain in Iraq until 2011. Since president Bush left the White House, soldiers such as Cliff Cornell have received harsh sentences of 12 months or more for voicing their opposition to the war.
The Harper minority would not have to go to such lengths to defend its position if it was clear about its true motivation: support for Bush's invasion of Iraq. For hard line neo-conservatives such as Kenney and Prime Minister Stephen Harper who staunchly endorsed Bush and pushed our Parliament to send troops into combat in Iraq in 2003, the deportation and punishment of soldiers resisting participation in this war is a logical extension of the Bush doctrine.
Admitting this truth would mean ignoring consistent public opinion polling that confirms more than 80 per cent of Canadians stand by the decision not to go to war with Iraq (even 59 per cent of Americans agree with our decision). It would also require dismissing the 64 per cent of Canadians who think Iraq War resisters should be welcomed in Canada because the resisters have done the right thing.
After the massive human rights abuses in the Second World War and the Nazi persecution of the Jews, the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg described the waging of aggressive war as "essentially an evil thing ... to initiate a war of aggression ... is not only an international crime; it is the supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole."
The chief prosecutor at the Nuremberg Tribunal and Associate United States Supreme Court Justice Robert Jackson wrote: "No political or economic situation can justify" the crime of aggression.
"If certain acts in violation of treaties are crimes they are crimes whether the United States does them or whether Germany does them, and we are not prepared to lay down a rule of criminal conduct against others which we would not be willing to have invoked against us."
Introduction of a bill that will change the law to let Iraq War resisters live here as the majority of Canadians desires is long overdue. For Harper, who admitted during the 2008 election that the Iraq War is "absolutely an error," permitting the resisters to stay would be a wise change of policy on this disastrous and unpopular war.
This article was posted to the We Move To Canada Blog, September 25, 2009
In light of Bill C-440 in support of US war resisters in Canada, there's a letters-to-the-editor battle raging in several newspapers from BC to St. John's. I've been receiving the letters by email, and let me tell you, the other side is out in full force with mouths foaming.
If you support Bill C-440, and believe people who refused to participate in the US invasion and occupation of Iraq should be welcome in Canada, please take a few minutes and write to your local newspaper.
Since the right-wing's main talking point amounts to "...but they volunteered," you might want to address that non-issue.
One, soldiers volunteer to protect and defend their country, not to invade and kill a civilian population, and not to blindly follow illegal orders. International law recognizes that it is not only a soldier's right to refuse illegal orders, but his or her responsibility.
Two, many of the war resisters volunteered, served, and have no legal way to leave the military. They didn't volunteer to be owned for the rest of their lives.
And finally, why is conscription vs volunteer even an issue? It wasn't in the Vietnam era. Thousands of the war resisters Canada welcomed in the 1960s and 1970s had volunteered for service. When they saw what was really happening in Vietnam, they changed their minds, but the US military wouldn't let them leave. Canada let them in - and let them stay.
Another theme is that allowing war resisters to stay in Canada is somehow an insult to Canadian troops. But Canada refused to participate in the invasion of Iraq. The vast majority of Canadians oppose the US war against Iraq. Canada didn't force its troops to fight that war. Welcoming Iraq War resisters to Canada has no bearing on the Canadian forces - or on any other soldier who serves willingly.
Please take five minutes and write a letter to the editor of your local paper. If you don't know the address, look on the website. Small-town newspapers are as important as their big city cousins.
The other thing you can do to help is to either donate $10 or $20, and/or circulate the link for our new Fundable campaign. Please post it on your own blog, on Facebook, Twitter, to email lists you're on. So far the Fundable campaign is going nowhere. We need the money to pay our legal bills, so war resisters won't be deported.
Supporting war resisters is a concrete way you can support peace.
This fundraising appeal was posted to theWe Move to Canada blog
The War Resisters Support Campaign is asking for your help again. Our fight to secure safe haven for US war resisters in Canada continues. Without critical funds, we cannot win.
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Thousands of US soldiers have refused to participate in the US's invasion and occupation of Iraq, choosing to obey their consciences instead of illegal military orders. Some of these courageous men and women have come to Canada, seeking sanctuary.
The majority of Canadian people believe these veterans should be allowed to live in Canada. On two separate occasions, the Canadian Parliament passed a motion calling on the Government to allow the war resisters to stay. Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his minority government ignored both motions.
Now a private member's bill in support of US Iraq war resisters has been introduced in the House of Commons. If passed into law, Bill C-440 will give the previous motions the force of law.
But what happens until then?
Shamefully, the Harper Government continues to deport war resisters. If forced to return to the US, the war resisters will be court martialled, imprisoned and likely receive dishonourable discharges, the equivalent of a felony conviction.
Until a law is passed allowing the war resisters to stay in Canada, the War Resister Support Campaign must fight each deportation order in court. Even with discounted fees from lawyers sympathetic to our cause, we face thousands of dollars in legal costs.
That's why we need your help.
This is an all-volunteer campaign, so every dollar you pledge (minus a fee for the Fundable service) will go directly towards legal costs for war resisters like Jeremy Hinzman and Dean Walcott.
Jeremy Hinzman was one of the first Iraq War resisters to seek refuge in Canada. Jeremy, his wife Nga Nguyen, son Liam and daughter Meghan, a Canadian citizen, also face deportation. (See photo.) Jeremy says he will go to prison rather than kill innocent people in Iraq, but we believe he should be allowed to live in peace in Canada.
Dean Walcott served two tours of duty in Iraq. He was also stationed at a US military hospital in Germany, where mortally wounded US soldiers and Iraqi civilians lived out their last days. The carnage was ghastly. Dean began having nightmares and became severely depressed.
Once Dean was back in the US, the Marines obstructed his efforts to get help for his depression and post-traumatic stress symptoms, but there was no legal way for him to leave the military. In December 2006, Dean walked away from his base in North Carolina and boarded a Greyhound bus for Toronto.
Dean now trains high school students in computer repair, working for reBOOT Canada, a non-profit organization that provides computers and technical support to charities and low-income Canadians.
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Please help us win our battle to keep US war resisters safe in Canada.
You can pledge as little as $10 or as much as you can afford. We've set a modest goal of $2500. If we reach that goal by the Fundable deadline, your pledge will be charged (in US dollars) to your credit card or PayPal account. If we raise more than $2500, the Fundable campaign will continue until the deadline, and every dollar will go to war resister legal defense.
Supporting war resisters is a concrete way you can support peace, and funds are desperately needed. For more information, see the War Resisters Support Campaign, or the blog we move to canada under the category "war resisters".
With thanks and in peace,
The War Resisters Support Campaign
This article was posted to the We Move to Canada blog, September 17, 2009
We have a bill!
Bill C-440, a bill in support of US Iraq War resisters, was introduced in the House of Commons today. MP Gerard Kennedy (Parkdale-High Park) introduced the bill, seconded by Bill Siksay (Burnaby-Douglas).
This is a private member's bill, and for those of you who, like me, are new to the Canadian political system, private member's bills don't often become law. But some do, and this one might. And regardless of the ultimate outcome, Bill C-440 is a critical tool to help us advocate for basic Canadian values: welcoming good people of conscience who have refused to participate in an unjust war, and seek haven in this country.
Bill C-440 gives legal weight to the motion already passed twice in Parliament. Minister of Citizenship and Immigration Jason Kenney has refused to implement the will of Parliament and has continued to deport, and threaten to deport, war resisters, saying the motions are "non-binding". Passing C-440 will force the minority Conservative government to respect the majority view - to respect democracy - and let war resisters stay.
Now we face yet another enormous task. We need to ensure that Bill C-440 moves along, in order to prevent any more deportations. I can tell you this in all sincerity: every action in support will make a difference.
In the coming days and weeks, I'll have more information about how you can support C-440. There'll be a website, a petition, and more. But now, today, there is something you can do.
Please take a moment to send an email of thanks and support. Here's why:
to thank MPs Kennedy and Siksay for introducing this important bill
to thank the Opposition Members for their efforts in passing two motions in the House of Commons in support of U.S. Iraq War resisters,
to remind them that several Iraq war resisters are under imminent threat of deportation to the United States, where they face court-martial and jail time, and
to call on all Members of the Opposition to help move the bill forward as quickly as possible, and to work hard alongside thousands of Canadians to stop any impending deportations.
MP Bill Siksay is a long-time champion of US war resisters in Canada. He was the first MP to introduce a motion in support of war resisters, many years ago. That motion didn't pass, but it helped blaze our trail. Mr Siksay is a person of conscience, and he deserves our thanks.
In the last election, Gerard Kennedy inherited the Toronto riding with the highest concentration of war resisters. (Parkdale-High Park was formerly represented by NDP Member Peggy Nash, an stalwart supporter of our cause.) Mr Kennedy has shown himself to be committed to helping his war resister constituents. He sees allowing US war resisters to stay in Canada as completely consistent with mainstream Canadian values, and believes the Conservative minority government is not only wrong, but out of step with Canada. You can see video of some remarks Kennedy made in Parkdale, in support of Kim Rivera and other war resisters, and more recently in support of Rodney Watson.
This press release, from the War Resisters Support Campaign, was posted to the We Move to Canada blog, September 17, 2009
Private Member’s bill to be introduced in support of U.S. Iraq War resisters
OTTAWA—On Thursday, September 17, Toronto Member of Parliament Gerard Kennedy (Parkdale—High Park), is expected to introduce a private Member’s bill in the House of Commons that, if passed, would allow U.S. Iraq War resisters to stay in Canada. The war resisters are U.S. military personnel who have refused to participate in the illegal and immoral Iraq War.
The bill, which will be seconded by Vancouver Member of Parliament Bill Siksay (Burnaby—Douglas), will make binding on the government the direction that Parliament has already given twice (on June 3, 2008 and March 30, 2009) by way of motions that resulted from studies of the issue by the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration (CIMM).
“It’s time that the current government of Canada reflected Canadians’ desire to allow war resisters to stay and contribute to our country,” said Gerard Kennedy, MP. “This law will simply compel them to do what they haven’t had the good graces or the good sense to do on their own – and recognise the special circumstances that strike a chord with the majority of Canadians.”
“Canada’s Parliament has already voted twice to allow these principled men and women to stay,” said Bill Siksay, MP. “Canadians have never supported the Iraq War. This bill reflects the significant support for Iraq War resisters that can be found in every part of our country.”
The introduction of this private Member’s bill comes at a time when several U.S. Iraq War resisters are threatened with deportation. Two others, Robin Long and Cliff Cornell who both lived in British Columbia, have already been deported to the U.S. where they were court-martialed and jailed as prisoners of conscience for their opposition to the Iraq War. The felony-equivalent convictions given to Iraq War resisters who have been sent back to the U.S. by the Canadian government will result in life-long punishment such as the loss of the right to vote in many states and severely limited chances for employment.
“We are hopeful that this bill will succeed in achieving what should have been done a long time ago,” said Michelle Robidoux, spokesperson for the War Resisters Support Campaign. “Iraq War resisters have done the right thing, and Canadians have welcomed them with open arms. The Conservative government is out of step with the majority sentiment in this country, intent on imposing its own minority view. Canadians want to have their voices heard through this very important bill.”
A public opinion poll conducted by Angus Reid Strategies in June 2008 found widespread approval (64 per cent) for Parliament’s initial vote directing the minority Harper government to immediately stop deporting Iraq War resisters and create a program to facilitate the resisters’ requests for permanent resident status.