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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The fight for Iraq war resisters to remain in Canada is a two front war.
The political front
On June 3, 2008, Canadian Parliament voted in favour of allowing Iraq war resisters to seek permanent residence status in Canada.
This non-binding motion called for the creation of a special government program to, "allow conscientious objectors and their families ... who have refused or left military service related to a war not sanctioned by the United Nations to apply for permanent resident status."
One hundred and thirty-seven MPs from the Liberal party, the NDP and the Bloc Québécois voted in favour of the motion, while 110 Conservative MPs voted against.
While the motion was passed by a majority in Parliament, the minority Conservative government under Stephen Harper has yet to enact it; this despite constant lobbying
from the War Resister Support Campaign (WRSC), immigration rights groups and anti-war activists.
The judicial front
Even though Canadian Parliament had passed the June 3, 2008, it is non-binding. Therefore the Canadian immigration system, through the Immigrant and Refugee Board
(IRB), has been issuing deportation orders to those resisters who have applied for refugee status.
These deportation orders are being contested in the Canadian judicial system as the Federal Court considers a series of IRB decisions and defendant appeals.
Canada's immigration process includes both an Humanitarian and Compassionate (H + C) application and a Pre-Risk Removal Assessment (PRRA), to determine the impact of a deportation on the individual or if they would face undue hardship if returned to their home country.
There are a number of different resisters challenging their negative H + C and PRRA decisions, requesting an appeal or a new refugee application from the IRB.
One such case includes a Federal court judge's acceptance to review the deportation order of resister Jeremy Hinzman. This allows Hinzman and his wife and children to remain in Canada until the appeal of their negative PRRA is heard.
Despite an IRB ruling stating that Hinzman would face no undue hardship if returned to the United States to face a military trial for desertion, in (Federal Court) Justice Mosley ruling, he concluded that "[b]ased on the evidence and submissions before me, I am satisfied that the applicants would suffer irreparable harm if a stay were not granted pending determination of their leave application."
Lawyers for the resisters and the WRSC both assert that any soldier deported back to the US to stand trial would face undue hardship. They cite an emerging trend of prosecution in U.S. court marshal proceedings that considers speaking out publicly against the U.S. government and the Iraq war grounds for increased punishment.
This risk of harsher punishment - including prosecution with charges equal to a civilian felony conviction, prison sentences, denial of veteran benefits for themselves and their family and the military humiliation of receiving a dishonourable discharge - is at the heart of Hinzman's immigration case currently before the courts.
In recent days, Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism Jason Kenney (replacing Diane Finley) has been catching heat for public statements made to the Toronto Sun concerning US war resisters, spoken from his position as the minister directly in charge of immigration.
Commenting after resister Kimberly Rivera received a negative IRB decision on January 7, 2009, he referred to Iraq war resisters as, "bogus refugee claimants" in a later interview on Parliament Hill.
He went on to state, "I don't appreciate people adding to the backlog and clogging up the system whose claims are being rejected consistently 100 per cent of the time."
Minister Kenney also responded to an article written by John Hogan in the Toronto Sun where Hogan questioned the independence of the IRB in light of the Conservative governments consistent negative stance towards US war resisters. In a response to this article, he wrote that, "war resistance is futile" and re-affirmed the IRB'S independence.
Critics of the minority Conservative government claim that Minister Kenney's comments prejudice any immigration hearings for war resisters.
Lee Zaslofsky, an organizer with the War Resister Support Campaign (WRCS), criticized Minister Kenney's comments as political interference on the supposedly independent IRB tribunal.
"Everyone, including war resisters, has the right to expect their applications will be dealt with in a fair and impartial manner," he wrote in a statement.
"Minister Kenney's comments show the Harper government has a blanket policy of opposition against war resisters, which makes it nearly impossible for them to be treated on a 'case-by-case basis' as our government has been leading Canadians to believe."
Criticism of Minister Kenney's remarks were also laid down through an open letter by Elizabeth McWeeney, President of the Canadian Council of Refugees.
In the letter writ on January 8, 2009, she stated her concern surrounding Minister Kenney's comments which she called, "highly inappropriate" since they "give the strong appearance of political interference."
She was referring to the fact that the IRB re-appointments are made by Cabinet and IRB members might fear for their tenure if they do not toe a certain political line.
She wrote, "highly publicized cases such as the war resisters are always challenging for the IRB which must live up to its obligations to make fair, impartial and politically unmotivated determinations, based on jurisprudence and the evidence before it."
Any political assertions otherwise, especially spoken from the minister responsible for immigration affairs, threatens the independence of the IRB and the right of war resisters to a fair immigration assessment.
McWeeny also refuted the Minister's assumptions around the burden that war resisters supposedly place on the Canadian immigration system.
She was "shocked" that Minister Kenney would attribute the systematic delays in the refugee claim process to the war resisters, slamming the Minister for the lack of credibility to his argument since the number of war resister claims was "miniscule".
Instead, she cited that the backlog was in fact a consequence of the Conservative government to appoint IRB members.
This slams shut the door on any Conservative government intentions to utilize a divide and conquer strategy between refugees.
The open letter ends with the Canadian Council of Refugees affirming its support for Iraq war resisters, "these are individuals who deserve our admiration for following their consciences and refusing to participate in wrongdoing, at significant cost to themselves."
This is a critical juncture for Iraq war resisters in Canada - with a series of deportation orders scheduled to start at the end of the month.
We as a society must weight their struggle using both our hands. Carefully determine the possible outcomes to their fight to remain in Canada. Carefully determine the value of life and the cost of protecting it.
Jail time in a U.S. prison for refusing to kill or a new home in Canada for refusing to kill.
The cost of laying down one's guns and refusing to fight is soon to be determined legally in our courts and morally in the hearts of Canadians across the country.
The price: freedom or deportation.
This article, by Liam Lahey, was published in The Parkdale-Liberty Villager, July 15, 2008
With news U.S. Army deserter Robin Long would be deported to the U.S. to face a court martial on July 15, some of the Parkdale-based American war resisters expressed equal amounts of fear and anger at the Federal Court of Canada's precedent-setting decision.
Long, 23, was told recently by the court he would be deported to face a military court martial in the U.S. for refusing to fight in the Iraq War. That decision has raised fears Canada has set a precedent that would likely pave the way for other war resisters - nine of whom currently reside in Parkdale - to also be deported.
Dale Landry is wanted by the U.S. Air Force for refusing to fight in Iraq after serving in Afghanistan. Landry spent the night of July 14 in full uniform outside the U.S. Consulate on University Avenue in support of Long. The Parkdale resident, who turned 23 this past week, lives with two other American military personnel in a small apartment.
"We're shocked after all the work that's gone into the campaign, the opinion polls, the people signing our petitions and all of the overwhelming public support, and still (Long's) going to be deported," he said. "It's really underhanded stuff that's going on."
Lee Zaslofski, co-ordinator of the Toronto-based War Resisters Support Campaign, said he's spoken with the 20 known war resisters based in this city and added there is much concern for Long.
"We're very disappointed and somewhat angry," he said. "It seems the Harper government is determined to act as an enforcement arm for the U.S. Pentagon. Robin Long is the first score they've had. The Canadian Border Services Agency will (deport) him when they feel like it and they may have already done it but we don't know. They're likely to do it in such a way as to avoid publicity."
As for Corey Glass, the 25-year-old Parkdale resident and U.S. Army deserter that had received the lion's share of attention after being granted a temporary reprieve by the Federal Court from deportation on July 10, he too expressed deep regret.
Glass spent a morning calling Simcoe North Conservative MP Bruce Stanton who's allegedly supportive of the war resisters' plight in an effort to halt Long's deportation.
"He (Stanton) said he couldn't issue a statement but he's the most supportive Conservative I've seen," he said. "Maybe (the federal government) doesn't understand why we're here and why we're not in our own country fighting this thing. It's because we can't. It's a biased system that's over there and we'd be put in front of a military court not a civilian court."
Glass said he'd continue to push for Parliament to do more than sit atop the June 3 resolution it passed in support of the resisters that Stephen Harper's government is not legally bound to honour.
Meanwhile, Zaslofski vowed the fight would go on. A public rally was planned in front of the Federal Court on Queen Street West and Simcoe Street at noon on July 15.
"We will continue to try to mobilize Canadians," said Zaslofski, "and try to have an impact on this minority government of theirs which is not interested in serving Canadians' wishes and interests but more concerned with serving the interests of another government."
This article, by Krystalline Kraus, was originally posted to Rabble News, June 4, 2008
Canadian MPs – the majority opposition representing the majority of Canadians – stood in support of Iraq war resisters when they voted to pass an asylum motion yesterday in Parliament.
Liberal, NDP and Bloc MPs (137 in total) stood in favour – literally stood up to vote as procedure dictates, though for a second the line of MPs could be confused for a makeshift honour guard of sorts – of the "war resister" motion. From the ranks of the Conservative Party, 110 MPs stood against. They did not look happy. Perhaps because they knew Bush would not be happy (first it was former White House press secretary Scott McClellan's wicked Iraq criticisms and now this northern dissent. Someone is going to bed angry!)
The motion, first presented to Parliament on May 29 by NDP MP Olivia Chow, was based on an earlier Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration motion (Standing Order 108(2)) in December 2007.
It called for the creation of a special government program to "allow conscientious objectors and their families ... who have refused or left military service related to a war not sanctioned by the United Nations … to apply for permanent resident status."
The motion also called for the government to immediately "cease any removal or deportation actions that may have already commenced against such individuals." Let them stay!
There are currently an estimated two hundred Iraq war resisters, either underground or declared, living in Canada.
This group of men and women, a true motley crew of ages, ranks, family status and political affiliation, have been living and working in Canada since 2004, when the first war resister, Jeremy Hinzman, crossed the border into Canada after his U.S. conscientious objector application was denied and he ran out of other legal options.
Since then, the community of resisters and community members has been doggedly fighting for their right to remain in Canada.
As Hip Hop MC Mohammad Ali raps on a track on his latest CD, their request is simple: "three little words / let them stay!"
Iraq war resister Robin Long, who currently resides in B.C., was excited by the vote. He felt that Canadians were making a strong stand against a war that the UN declared was illegal.
"I feel a small but growing and powerful group of people have woken up and are taking a stand ... and these people are going to wake everyone else up, leading the people back to power and away from the corporate agenda Bush," he said.
In defence of their choice – for which they have faced death threats for desertion to taunts calling them disloyal cowards – resisters note that not only did the UN declare the Iraq war illegal, but their decision is also supported by the Nuremberg Principles which allow soldiers the moral right and responsibility to refuse orders. In this case, war resisters state they are making the moral choice to seek refuge in Canada since their actions are in concurrence with international law (that the invasion of Iraq was illegal and they refuse to fight in an illegal war).
Charles Bradford McCall, another Iraq war resister living in B.C., said that today's passed motion was "a major step in support of ending this current age of oppression that stems from the U.S. government."
"I hope now that many more U.S. soldiers will decide to make a definite stand against the current regime and the U.S. military. This is the beginning of a new resistance. I will remember this day forever," McCall said. Saving Sergeant Corey Glass
While yesterday's motion is non-binding, Lee Zaslofsky of the War Resisters Support Campaign (WRSC) noted that the motion was morally binding.
NDP MP Olivia Chow expressed hope that the Harper government would recognize the will of the House majority – and thus, the will of the Canadian people – and follow through on the motion.
But the strong opposition shown by the Citizenship and Immigration minister, Diane Finley, and the Conservative government puts this in doubt.
Jeff House, lawyer to many of the resisters, said the motion sends a clear signal to the Conservative minority government. "It is now clear that the Canadian people welcome U.S. Iraq war resisters, and that, in a democratic country, that should be the end of the story. A government which represents Canadians will agree to create a mechanism to allow Iraq resisters to stay," he said.
The motion came to pass as an attempt to prevent Iraq war resister Corey Glass's deportation (and the impending deportation of others), which is set to occur on June 12. If the Conservative minority government chooses to ignore the motion, then Glass is still under the gun (as part of the motion demands the government immediately rescind Glass's deportation order). Canada's resister history
The motion, in its entirety, would return Canada to its role of accepting conscientious objectors – and taking a stand against U.S. military aggression - as it did during the Vietnam war.
According to the WRSC, between 50,000 and 80,000 Americans sought refuge in Canada during the U.S. war in Vietnam. Pierre Trudeau, then Prime Minister of Canada, granted them sanctuary. The Canadian public is calling on the current Harper government to do the same. There is already parliamentary precedent in place.
In 2003, Prime Minister Jean Chrétien refused to allow Canadian troops to fight in the United States' coalition of the willing.
Alexandre Trudeau, son of Pierre Elliott Trudeau and director of the documentary film Embedded In Baghdad, supports his father's legacy and Canada's opposition to the Iraq war. "We must not forget that the invasion of Iraq was a war justified only by lies, greed and stupidity for which permission was not sought nor granted to the Bush administration by the United Nations."
"Those Americans who served in Iraq and have come to Canada to avoid being pressed into further participation in the indignities of the American occupation there are brave men and women of principle who should be given a chance to become landed in Canada," Trudeau concluded.
Yesterday's vote in Parliament marked an important step on the long road to realizing that key demand of the war resisters' supporters, summed up in those three little words: let them stay!