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!
Disclaimer: In accordance with title 17 u.s.c. section 107, this material is distributed without profit for research and educational purposes.
The Sir! No Sir! Blog has no affiliation whatsoever with the originator of this article nor is the Sir! No Sir! Blog endorsed or sponsored by the originator. Links are provided to allow for verification of authenticity.
This article, by Krystalline Kraus, was posted to rabble.ca, November 6, 2009
On November 11, veterans will get only two minutes of recognition -- if people stop to reflect at all -- while the rest of the year their sacrifice is forgotten.
If Canada’s mission in Afghanistan does end in 2011, 35,000 men and women will have served in that theatre -- 133 have been killed thus far -- and the Canadian Forces’ (CF) low estimate is that as many as 2,000 could be returning home with an Operational Stress Injury (OSI) such as PTSD.
These soldiers will return home with, among other things, an OSI or plagued by survivor’s guilt and the pressure to do good by their dead friends; first they bury them and then they bury their own feelings. As the saying goes: Survivors die twice. Massacre at Fort Hood
The problems the U.S. military would prefer to hide violently surged to the public’s attention when Major Nidal Malik Hasan, a 39-year-old U.S. Army psychiatrist, allegedly opened fire yesterday afternoon at Fort Hood, Texas. He is accused of killing 13 people and wounding 30.
A New York Times article features an interview with Hasan’s cousin, who states that he expressed deep concern about being sent to Iraq or Afghanistan; the cousin also notes that Hasan’s job was to counsel returning soldiers suffering with PTSD which gave him an intimate window into the horrors of war. This made him fearful of deploying to either theatre. His cousin also claims he was having second thoughts about his military career a few years ago after other soldiers harassed him for being a Muslim. Bringing the war home After the battle’s over, some scars are more visible than others. But they can’t stay hidden forever, and like tiny landmines they will eventually explode. Nor should they be a hidden shame. Refusing to acknowledge the challenges faced by active duty, reservists or veterans is as insulting as refusing to properly acknowledge the dead; and one presidential visit to inspect a standing army of coffins isn’t enough.
This is the horror of war that society and -- too often -- the anti-war community fail to acknowledge. We cry and lament for the civilian casualties and too often hate the individual soldiers who we insist are cold hearted bastards who enlisted to kill, ignoring the reality of military recruitment tactics that purposefully target young vulnerable teenagers and young adults often from poor and disadvantaged urban centers, rural communities and First Nation reserves with the promise of medallion glory and video-game thrills; or, more simply, the promise of a large sign-up bonus and free healthcare. The damage done by war
The damage from war and our society’s treatment of these heroes is damning. The statistics are explosive.
Exposure to war time violence can cause Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) -- the Canadian government uses the term Operation Stress Injury (OSI) instead of the DSM-IV diagnosis of PTSD since apparently soldiers who “cannot cope” with the reality of war are just “stressed.”
The impact and fallout on troops can be devastating on the soldier and their family. Symptoms of PTSD (or shell shock as it was once called) include persistent frightening thoughts and memories of their ordeal, emotionally numbness, especially with people with whom they were once close. Sufferers may also experience sleep problems or be easily startled.
The Harper government’s military policy paper, 'The Canada First Defence Strategy,' proposes spending $490 billion on the military over the next 20 years. Instead of spending tax payers money on bombs and bullets, money should be invested in veteran specific health care needs, especially better access to mental health services.
Canada’s Chief of Defence Staff, General Walter Natynchuk, has pledged to do more to assist soldiers suffering from OSI, but is quick to blame the military’s warrior culture without acknowledging the systemic refusal to acknowledge how deep the problem runs.
One bright light in the darkness is a new program offered by Veterans Affairs Canada called Operational Stress Injury Support Services (OSISS), which began offering peer-support counseling to returning soldiers of all rank, bars and stripes, including active-duty, reservists and veterans.
In a 2002 NOW Magazine article Terry Allan interviewed Lt.-Gen. Romeo Dallaire (Ret.'d) about the long-term consequences of his war experiences. “Eight years after Rwanda, in daylight and in dreams, Dallaire still hears the cries of wounded children, the weeping of survivors, the voice of the man who died at the other end of a phone line as the general listened. He still can't escape the smell of death, the memories of hacked-off limbs scattered on the ground, and worst of all, he says, the ‘thousands upon thousands of sets of eyes in the night, in the dark, just floating and looking back’ at him in anger, accusation, or eternal pleading.”
Now a Senator, Dallaire has estimated, “about 20 per cent of troops and humanitarian workers on missions like his suffer much the same thing, as do 5 to 10 percent of diplomats. ‘They are casualties … High suicide rates, booze, drugs, pornography, finding themselves on skid row.’
Whisper the word Rwanda and everyone knows the horror you’re referencing, the horror that Dallaire and other Canadian peacekeepers lived through in 1994 while thousands and thousands of the people they were UN mandated to protect did not.
“Ultimately PTSD leads to suicide,” he said. “I tried to kill myself four times.” To suggest that Dallaire, who has been open about his battles with PTSD, is weak-minded or weak willed is an insult to every one of Canada’s heroes. Glass soldiers
Soldiers like to believe they are invinsible, that they are steel warriors. Sure, Kevlar helmets and Molle vests protect the body, but what about the mind and the pride that soldiers often carry that prevents them from seeking help even when their lives are falling apart? Along with mental health issues, returning soldiers often face social and personal problems such as rising incarceration rates.
According to a November 2008 report, 4,000 new cases of PTSD in the UK were reported last year and service personnel on operations are nine times more likely to suffer than those not posted. It also found that women were more vulnerable to the condition, with an eight out of 1,000 chance rather than the four out of 1,000 chance for men.
A UK National Association of Probation Officers report, issued September 25, 2009, stated, “Depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and substance abuse are behind an alarming rise in the number of former British soldiers ending up in prison, a report says -- and more veterans have had tangles with the law than there are British troops in Afghanistan. It also noted that most veterans don't receive adequate counseling or support when they leave the armed forces.”
The statistics are hauntingly similar for Canadian soldiers. Our heroes are dying, with suicide rates more than double those of the general population. These statistics only include active duty service personnel and do not include reservists or veterans, as the Department of National Defense (DND) does not currently track overall suicide rates despite calls for greater transparency from the public, the media and Canadian politicians like Senator Dellaire.
A Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) investigation found that the suicide rate among Canada's soldiers doubled from 2006 to 2007. Last year, the number of suicides among regular and reserve members of the Canadian Forces rose to its highest point in more than a decade. Veterans Affairs says that the number of vets experiencing some kind of operational stress injury, such as PTSD, has tripled in the past five years, and they expect it to continue rising with Canada's mission in Afghanistan likely to last until 2011. It has also recently pledged to review the way the Department of Defence tracks suicide rates. (For the U.S., the month of January 2009 brought the highest rate of suicide among all branches of the U.S. military and had the highest rates since 1980. Killing overseas and killing our own
If the Department of National Defense and Veterans Affairs Canada are speaking the truth regarding wanting to break the stigma of mental health issues within military, than nothing less than full disclosure and transparency, as opposed to secrecy and shame, regarding suicide statistics is necessary for healing to begin.
Senator Dallaire, in an exclusive interview with the CBC, said, “I mean there are regiments who won't recognize that one of their soldiers who's committed suicide, you know, a year or so after a mission, should go on the list of those who are a casualty of the mission. If you're killed in operation, your name is on the Honour List. But if you kill yourself due to the injury of that operation, then you're not recognized.”
In regards to the military structure, Dallaire blames the middle level functionaries for stalling the disclosure. It is they “who feel that they've got the responsibility of the purses of the government, who feel they've got the responsibilities of not setting up precedents and of applying the rules and so on. They're the ones both in DND and in Veterans Affairs, they are the ones who are making it more difficult,” he said.
If the military demands loyalty from its troops, then the troops should expect loyalty in return, loyalty in good times as in bad, during victory parades and when a soldier breaks down.
Canadians cannot have it both ways; a hero-honouring culture that does not honour its heroes. Neither can the anti-war movement rail against the treatment of civilians, foreign combatants and detainees -- the war overseas -- while ignoring the challenges facing soldiers and veterans who have brought the war home. All are casualties. This is where a new peace keeping effort must begin.
This article, by John Bermingham, wasa posted to Courage to Resist, October 19, 2009
U.S. army deserter Rodney Watson has become the first fugitive from service in Iraq to enter church sanctuary in Canada. Monday morning, the 31-year-old told reporters he has been living in refuge at the First United Church in Vancouver since Sept. 18. "I don't believe it will be just for me to be deported," said Watson, flanked by church ministers and supporters. Watson lost his refugee claim on Sept. 11, and was expecting to be deported back to the U.S., where he faces jail for refusing to do a second tour of duty in Iraq.
Ric Matthews, minister with the First United Church, said Watson has an apartment at the church, and is fed on-site. Watson cannot leave the grounds of the church. Matthews said the church agreed to let Watson take refuge because it doesn't support the Iraq War, or the way the U.S. military treated Watson — who signed up to be a military cook, but was ordered to find explosives.
"We expect the authorities will continue to respect this place as a place of sanctuary," he said.
Sarah Bjorknas of the War Resisters Support Campaign Vancouver said three out of the five military deserters who have been deported from Canada since 2008 have been jailed.
A statement by Vancouver NDP MP Libby Davies said she'll continue to ask the Tory government to honour two non-binding votes in Parliament to allow army deserters to seek asylum in Canada.
"The government has chosen to ignore the will of the majority view of Canadians," said Bjorknas.
This article, by Krystalline Kraus, was posted to rabble.ca, October 29, 2009
With the war in Iraq still ongoing and the conflict in Afghanistan going from bad to worse, who is paying the price? Can success be measured by piling the dead up against a wall – ours and theirs? How high does the ladder to freedom and democracy have to be?
One hundred and thirty-two Canadians soldiers dead (also, one diplomat and two aid workers) since the 2002 invasion began. Twenty-six dead as of October 28, 2009.
As of July 7, the United Nations recorded over 1,000 deaths in the first six months of 2009 -- 24 per cent more than during the same period last year. Total number of estimated civilian deaths -- direct and indirect deaths from Coalition-led military operations since 2001 -- are 8,436 - 28,028.
As another heavy November 11 approaches, how should we as a society reflect on the horror of war and its horrible consequences?
As the America government hides its military’s dead and abandoning its wounded, is Canada’s treatment of its dead and wounded soldiers any more honourable? Sure, we sometimes allow news broadcasts of ramp ceremonies and we do have public displays like the Highway of Heroes, but how are we as a society really honouring our heroes? Shouting “Support Our Troops!” during recruitment drives and yet not supporting them when they return home -- dead or alive -- is dishonourable, unpatriotic and a disgrace to any society.
Is a two minute pause one a year enough, if people even pause at all on November 11? Lest we forget?
Just yesterday, yet another Canadian forces member -- Lt. Justin Garrett Boyes, 26, of 3rd Battalion, Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry, who was only 10 days into his second tour in Afghanistan -- lost his life in Afghanistan, and two more were injured. Did anyone pause when they heard this news?
For Canadian civilians the concepts of honour, duty and sacrifice act as a shield keeping people from recognizing that active duty, reserve and retired soldiers are also casualties of war. For the anti-war community, it’s a hatred of the whole military complex that clouds the eye. Either way, it’s the dead and walking wounded who suffer.
The formula the military uses to dehumanize the enemy blows back on its own recruits, and the first people really dehumanized are the soldiers themselves. If they don’t come home in a box, they often come home broken. How the anti-war movement treats these men and women is a direct reflection on our ability to show concern for the ‘other’ who – for whatever reason -- chose to go to war.
The sooner we acknowledge and understand the true cost of war, the sooner we can take responsibility for our soldiers’ actions and our soldiers themselves.
Our peaceful Canadian society frankly does not want to truly acknowledge the impact and blow back combat has on all involved. Civilians and warriors alike. But this is the only way we as a society can truly heal from these scars and give peace to the victims of combat. Innocent and enlisted alike. Hiding the dead
For all its love of military and patriotism, the United States is quick to hide its dead. There are no American Valkyries to gloriously carry dead soldiers to an anglo-Valhalla. Bodies are instead buried and forgotten under the dirt of censorship, with a state imposed silence like mist that hangs over the public and media.
Last month, U.S. Defence Secretary Robert Gates had stern words for the Associated Press (AP) for publishing a photograph of a dying Lance Cpl. Joshua Bernard, who was killed in southern Afghanistan from wounds received from a rocket-propelled grenade in a Taliban ambush on August 14, 2009.
In defending its decision to circulate the photograph -- an image of fellow Marines helping Bernard after he suffered severe leg injuries -- Santiago Lyon, the Director of Photography for the Associated Press, said, "AP journalists document world events every day. Afghanistan is no exception. We feel it is our journalistic duty to show the reality of the war there, however unpleasant and brutal that sometimes is."
Writing for Common Dreams, Dave Lindorff chastized the U.S. government for its censorship. “Enough with the censorship! If we are going to be a warlike nation, if we are going to have a public that cheers everytime the government ships off men and women to fight and kill overseas in countries that most Americans cannot even locate on a globe, then let's make sure that everyone at least gets to see the blood and gore in full, including our own, and of course, also the civilian casualties of our military.”
The Bush administration has an equally ugly legacy regarding how it treats its wounded. During the last presidential election, the Bush adminitration took a hit regarding the substandard care wounded soldiers were receiving at the Walter Reed Medical Centre. The scandal resulted in the resignation of Army Secretary Francis J. Harvey and a call for a bipartisan commission to investigate.
Apparently, when an injured soldier salutes or an injured marine shouts “Semper Fi!,” the military doesn’t return the honour. The army marches on, leaving them behind. The wounded warrior project http://www.woundedwarriorproject.org/ describes the feeling in simple painful terms: “The Greatest Casualty is Being Forgotten.” Honour and horror in Afghanistan
The situation isn’t looking much brighter for soldiers serving in Afghanistan. While foreign involvement in Afghanistan had been overshadowed by the war in Iraq, it is back now under the media’s glare.
Grievances concerning the current North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) mission keep rising to the surface. Most recently, Senator Colin Kenny stated he believes the war is doomed to fail unless NATO changes its tactics towards a more diplomatic and political angle. He also noted a Strategic Counsel poll taken July 13-16, 2009 showing that 56 per cent of Canadians opposed sending troops to Afghanistan.
Senator Kenny’s doubt concerning the Afghanistan mission mirrors concerns raised recently in the United States by the top U.S. and NATO commander, General McChrystal, who according to a 66-page document obtained by the Washington Post, which stated that situation is Afghanistan is grim and that without more boots on the ground, the mission, “will likely end in failure.”
Unfortunately, redacting an occupying army into a diplomatic mission is as impossible as magically turning a knife into a spoon. Casualties of shame and censorship
Canadians, while always quick to criticize the U.S. government, have nothing to be proud of in regards to how we treat our casualties of war.
In his recently published autobiography, Former Chief of Defense, General Rick Hillier, outs the current Harper government for its own shameful, unpatriotic handling of Captain Nicola Goddard’s repatriation ceremony. Goddard died from wounds received from a rocket propelled grenade on May 17, 2009 in the dusty Panjwaii district of Afghanistan.
Hillier had intended on a hero’s welcome for Goddard -- the first Canadian female combat death since WW2 and the first woman to die in front line combat in Afghanistan. (Lest we forget the Major Michelle Mendes, who committed suicide in April 2009 while stationed in Kandahar; she should also be considered a casualty of war.)
But in his autobiography, Hillier leveled harsh charges against former Defense Minister, Gordon O’Connor (himself a former military commander, thus adding insult to injury) and the Harper government of disgracing Goddard by attempting to hide her repatriation ceremony from the media and public -- at which the government had some success. This lead to a very public battle that pitted her grieving father against the governments’ recently enacted policy a month earlier of shielding the flag-draped coffins from public view by keeping journalists outside the fenced airfield at CFB Trenton.
He has gone on record, stating: “Officials in the Prime Minister's Office ordered the military to hide the return to Canada of the first female soldier killed in combat because they didn't want her flag-draped coffin seen on the news.”
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 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.
* * * * *
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.
* * * * *
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.
This article was posted to the We Move to Canada Blog,. September 11, 2009
A lesbian who deserted the U.S. army argued before the Federal Court in Ottawa on Tuesday that she should be allowed to remain in Canada as a refugee.
Pte. Bethany Smith, also known as Skyler James, is seeking a judicial review of a decision by the Immigration and Refugee Board to reject a refugee claim. Smith said she feared for her life due to the treatment she received in the army as a result of her sexual orientation.
"I had to endure not only verbal and physical harassment, but death threats and harassment letters on my door every day," Smith told reporters Tuesday outside the court. Following the hearing, she said she was staying positive and hoping for the best.
Smith, who now lives in Ottawa, said she was treated as "less than human" by other soldiers at the base in Fort Campbell, Ky., after they saw her holding hands with another woman at a local mall and found out she was a lesbian. One soldier who worked with her on the base's fleet of vehicles would pick her up, shake her and throw her to the ground on a daily basis, she told CBC News.
"There were sergeants standing around laughing with him," she added.
She also received anonymous hate mail at her door every night, she said, including one letter that warned: "We will suffocate you in your sleep."
Smith later learned that a gay soldier had been beaten to death in his bed with a baseball bat at the Fort Campbell base in 1999. Discharge denied Fearing for her life, she asked her first sergeant for a discharge, which is usually granted automatically to soldiers who admit to homosexuality.
"He told me straight up, 'We'll figure out the paperwork when we get back from deployment," she recalled. At the time, Smith was scheduled to be sent to Afghanistan.
Her lawyer, Jamie Liew, suggested the military went against its own policies because it needed more soldiers for its overseas deployments.
After being denied a discharge, Smith, who was 19 years old at the time, drove to the border at Cornwall, Ont., with another soldier. The War Resister Support Campaign, a group that has helped other U.S. deserters, helped her settle in Ottawa.
"I have a new home here and a new family … friends and a job," she said. "Everything I have here is set up as if I was born here, and being ripped out of this environment would change everything."
If Smith returns to the U.S., Liew believes that in addition to threats to her life, Smith would face military charges of desertion, absence without leave and indecency.
"Because it is a crime to be engaging in homosexual activity under the military criminal provision," Liew said.
She alleged that the U.S. military judicial system is "not up to par" with Canadian and international human rights standards.
"Why should we allow people to be sent back to be put through a process that is not fair?"
Smith said military cases are decided by tribunal members drawn from the accused's own unit — "The same people who are causing you problems."
Other U.S. deserters have failed in their appeals to Canadian courts, and some are serving prison terms after being deported. However, Liew said that shouldn't have any bearing on Smith's case.
"Bethany is coming with an extremely different story. She's coming because of the way her life was threatened because of her sexual orientation."
Most other deserters who have sought refugee status in Canada said they fled to avoid being deployed to the war in Iraq, as they opposed the war.
If the Federal Court rules in Smith's favour, she will be able to make her case again before a different IRB member, said Liew. She said the previous refugee board decision erred by not dealing with whether Smith would be persecuted if she returns to the U.S.