Continuing Saga of the U.S. Iraq War Deserters in Canada

By: Daniel Nardini

Two important things have happened in the past two years. First, a Canadian Federal Court of Appeals this year has ruled that U.S. Iraq War deserter Jeremy Hinzman can apply on humanitarian grounds under Canada’s immigration laws. The court ruled that the Canadian government had not taken Hinzman’s case into proper account, and noted that he can be persecuted in the United States (note: Amnesty International has stated that if Hinzman is deported to the United States, and he is arrested and court-martialed by the U.S. military, Amnesty International will adopt him as a Prisoner of Conscience). Also, the Canadian House of Commons passed a resolution in support of the U.S. Iraq War deserters.

All of this could not be a bigger blow to the minority Conservative-ruled government under Prime Minister Stephen Harper. The Canadian Conservative Party has lost ground in the Canadian Parliament, and a consistent majority of Canadians polled show support for the U.S. Iraq War deserters. This of course does not change the Canadian government’s overall attempt at discouraging the U.S. Iraq War deserters from staying in Canada, but the Conservative Party’s stand against the war deserters is being significantly chipped away on just about every level of Canadian society.

We must remember that some 40 years ago draft resisters from the Vietnam War (1964-1973) were welcomed to Canada by the Canadian government under then Liberal Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau. A number of these Vietnam era war resisters stayed in Canada and are now trying to help those U.S. Iraq War resisters there from being deported back to the United States. Such organizations as Amnesty International Canada and the War Resisters Support Campaign (Canada) are working to help the U.S. Iraq War deserters stay. In addition, the War Resisters Support Campaign is campaigning to have all Conservative officials voted out of the Canadian government on this issue.

It is an issue that does resonate with many Canadians. Even though there are only about 200 U.S. Iraq War deserters officially in Canada (there may be more, but they are in hiding. This of course seems like a small number compared to the 200,000 American war resisters from the Vietnam era), many Canadians feel that the Iraq War was an unjust war and a colossal mistake. Canada never participated in the Iraq War, and once classified information released by Wiki-leaks from U.S. military sources have shown how U.S. military conduct of the war killed109,000 Iraqis—66,000 of them civilians. This of course includes the number of American war dead which is close to 4,500. A growing number of Canadians as well as Americans feel that the war deserters had made the right decision and they should be given a chance to stay in Canada.

Until the Conservatives are completely voted out, the Canadian government’s attempt at throwing out the U.S. Iraq War deserters will not change anytime soon. Even though U.S. forces are taking nowhere near the losses and wounded they took before 2008 in Iraq, U.S. forces are still in Iraq and there are still some American casualties (99 percent of all the casualties now are being taken by the Iraqi forces). The Iraq War is not entirely over for the United States until the last U.S. soldiers are withdrawn from that country. Even though the United States is no longer paying the price in terms of lives, money and resources that we were paying before 2008, as long as the U.S. military is still involved there we are still in that conflict. And as long as this is the case, then the U.S. Iraq War deserters have reason to stay in Canada unless or until there is an amnesty for them in the United States.

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