By Gerry Condon. September 12, 2007
Thousands of young men and women are AWOL from the U.S. military. Away Without Official Leave. Also known as “deserters.” But they are not AWOL from their own consciences. And they have not deserted their moral upbringings or the law. Quite to the contrary. At considerable personal risk and inconvenience, they have made a conscientious decision to separate themselves from an illegal and immoral war. They are our antiwar heroes. They very much deserve our support. And they very much need it.
A couple hundred AWOL GI’s are currently living in Canada. They are from the U.S. Army, Marines, Navy and Air Force. Many of them served one tour in Iraq and then refused to go back again. Instead, they and their families have moved to Canada. With the support of many Canadians, they are struggling to create a home for themselves and a sanctuary for war resisters.
Nearly fifty of the resisters have asked Canadian authorities to allow them to remain in Canada as political refugees. They strongly believe they are doing the right thing by refusing to fight in an illegal war. They look to UN refugee law, which states that soldiers should be considered as refugees if they face persecution for refusing to fight in wars that are “widely condemned by the international community as contrary to standards of human conduct.”
These absentee GI’s are upholding the Nuremberg Principles, which were adopted as U.S. law after World War II. By refusing to fight in illegal wars or to commit war crimes, they are exercising their rights and responsibilities as soldiers.
So far, the war resisters’ refugee claims have been rejected by the political appointees on Canada’s refugee boards, who say that war resisters had legal avenues in the U.S. they could have pursued. They say that prosecution for being AWOL does not amount to “persecution.” They are reluctant to call the U.S. war “illegal.”
But the war resisters are fighting for their rights and for international law. They are appealing in Canada’s federal court system. The first two U.S. war resisters to apply for refugee status, Jeremy Hinzman and Brandon Hughey, have asked the Supreme Court of Canada to hear their appeals. Their lawyer, Jeffry House, is optimistic that the Supreme Court will overturn the negative decisions of the refugee board and the lower courts that have upheld them. In November, the Supreme Court will decide whether or not to hear the war resisters’ appeals.
But Canadians are not waiting for the Supreme Court decision. Tens of thousands of them have signed a petition calling on their government to create a sanctuary policy for U.S. war resisters. The War Resisters Support Campaign, with support from organizations like the Canadian Labour Congress and the United Church of Canada, are helping war resisters in cities all across Canada.
Now is the time for people in the U.S. to make their voices heard. Tell the Canadian government that our war resisters need and deserve a safe haven in Canada. The Canadian people and government said no to the Iraq War. And, according to a recent poll, they are saying yes to war resisters. Now it is time for the Canadian government to do the right thing.
Tell the Canadian government: Let Them Stay
It is urgent that everyone who supports the right of US war resisters to stay in Canada immediately contact both Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Minister of Citizenship & Immigration Diane Finley and request that they make a provision to allow U.S. war resisters to stay in Canada.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper
Minister of Citizenship & Immigration Diane Finley
Phone: 613-954-1064 (between 8:00 a.m. and 7:00 p.m.)
For more information or to donate to the vital work of the War Resisters Support Campaign in Canada, visit their website at www.resisters.ca.
This report was prepared by Gerry Condon, a Vietnam War resister who works with Iraq War resisters in Canada, for Courage to Resist. More information and valuable links are available at his website, www.SoldierSayNo.blogspot.com.