Second U.S. soldier settled in city by Canadian group

Published by CBC News. July 6, 2007

A U.S. military deserter has applied for refugee status after fleeing to Ottawa from a military base in Virginia before he could be posted to Iraq.

Ross Spears, 19, arrived in the city about three weeks ago after nine months in basic training during which he decided he could not support the war in Iraq.

Spears said he signed up when he was 18 and believed he had to do his part for his country against the "terrorists over there." But he began having doubts three days into basic training.

"The cadences they made us sing were … 'I went to the playground where all the children play; pulled out my Uzi and I began to spray,'" he said.

Spears said he signed up to be a truck driver, but was trained to kill using practice targets shaped like women in burqas with bazookas on their shoulders.

"And just the way they talked about going over there and killing people that made it seem like it was … hunting animals or something, hunting deer," he said.

Months later, he was told he was going to Iraq.

He asked his commanders for conscientious objector status, which would allow him to leave the army for reasons of conscience.

"At that point I was just like, 'This war is wrong,'" he said.

His commanders responded by binding his hands and roughing him up as discipline, he said.

Spears fled to Toronto, where he sought help from a Canadian group called the War Resister Support Campaign that has helped other U.S. deserters.

The group told him that resources were getting thin in Toronto, so they sent him to Ottawa.

There, he was welcomed into the home of Bob and Linda Stevenson.

Spears's lawyer Kourosh Farrokhzhad, who has been helping the former soldier build his refugee case, said he hopes Canada will fulfill its obligation to protect people who are wrongfully persecuted for their beliefs.

"These individuals who are conscientious objectors had their requests, to be seen as such, constantly thwarted by the U.S. military to the point where they were forced to engage in what is arguably an illegal war in Iraq," he said.

Spears is the second U.S. deserter settled in Ottawa by the War Resister Support Campaign . The first was 22-year-old James Burmeister.