September 23, 2008

The first U.S. Army deserter to seek refugee status in Canada, Jeremy Hinzman, was scheduled for deportation today, however, Crown Justice Richard Mosley granted a stay on the deportation order.

Hinzman’s lawyer, Alyssa Manning, had argued that "evidence suggests U.S. soldiers who have spoken out against the 2003 U.S.-led Iraq invasion have been facing more punishment than other deserters." Furthermore, Manning stated that the immigration officer had not properly assessed the hardship Jeremy and his family would endure.

Hinzman, who has worked in the past as a bike courier in Toronto, says he and his wife, Nga Nguyen, and children, Liam, 6, and 2-month-old Meghan, have been living off their savings in recent months. "When our compassionate and humanitarian application was turned down, my work permit was revoked (in August) … We have a little bit (of money) so we’ve been okay," he said.

At the Toronto hearing yesterday "the judge said if our family was to be separated, that would be irreparable harm," said Hinzman, as he held his baby at Friends House, a Quaker centre on Lowther Ave. in Toronto.

He said he volunteered to go to war: "I wanted to make a better life for myself and my family."

The Rapid City, S.D., native joined the 82nd Airborne in January 2001. Three years later, he went AWOL and fled to Toronto just before his unit was scheduled to leave for Iraq.