Saturday, May 31, 2008

Tell Harper to let the War Resisters stay in Canada!

On Tuesday, June 3, the House of Commons will vote on the motion to allow US war resisters to remain in Canada. This is it - this could be the turning point. The campaign suffered a blow when one of the resisters, Corey Glass, was recently informed he is to be deported in a couple of weeks.

People say, "but they volunteered". And this is supposed to make all the difference between the Vietnam war, when draft dodgers and resisters were given refuge in Canada, and the Iraq war. Some facts in response:

1) It's hard for people in a city like Toronto to imagine, but some of these people are subject to what is called the "economic draft". They volunteered because they lived in a place where the army seemed to be the only option. For some, it was the only way to obtain health care and an education. And while they were pondering that...

2) The army recruits agressively. One young American friend of mine tells of how recruiters would not leave him alone in high school. The military has the right to recruit in high schools (something that is being debated at many Canadian universities right now). Plus...

3) Military recruiters are allowed to lie. They can say anything they want. Many prospective soldiers want to enlist, but only if they can get a non-combat position. Many of the war resisters in Canada report that they were assured this would not be a problem. Corey Glass was even told he would only end up in combat if foreign troops entered the US.

4) Some of these resisters have returned from duty in Iraq, and know what is really going on there. Rather than building bridges or handing out candy to children, they were ordered to fire upon unarmed civilians. Their refusal to return is a moral decision - to refuse to kill, to refuse to fight in an illegal war, and to refuse to take part in war crimes.

5) Knowing what we now know, no reasonable person supports the Iraq invasion. Many who say the Iraq resisters volunteered feel that sheltering Vietnam resisters was ok. So if the Iraq resisters had been drafted, we should offer support, but since they volunteered, we should allow them to be forced to fight in an illegal war of aggression?

6) The resisters will not be treated fairly if they have to return to the US. Many resisters are serving jail time as a result of their conscientious objection to the Iraq invasion. They will receive a "bad conduct discharge", which is a felony, which will forever affect their ability to get a job. And while I don't believe even Dubya would be dumb enough to allow it, desertion in the US can be punishable by death.

7) From a letter to the editor in today's Toronto Star:

This is not just an immigration or moral issue – it is an issue of international law. Former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan called the Iraq war illegal, and the war crimes and crimes against humanity that have occurred throughout the war are well-documented.

Canada cannot pretend to support international law while denying sanctuary to those fleeing war crimes and crimes against humanity. If we expect individuals to uphold international law, then it follows that we must support them and provide sanctuary when they believe they are being asked to do something that violates international law.

So what now? Before Tuesday's vote, call or email Diane Finley (immigration minister) and Stephen Harper. Tell them what the majority of Canadians are feeling. Here is what I wrote:

To: Prime Minister Stephen Harper
Minister of Citizenship and Immigration Diane Finley

Please support the motion to allow Iraq war resisters to remain in Canada. Rescind the deportation order against US war resister Corey Glass, and immediately cease all deportation proceedings against all war resisters.

We need you to do the right thing. This is the will of the Canadian people!

The other day, I actually called Stephane Dion's office (before the Liberals declared their support for the war resisters). It was my first time phoning. I hate phoning, and was a bit apprehensive. To my surprise, it was easy and pleasant. No one cares who you are; no one asks your name or personal information. They simply take your comments and tell you they will be passed on, and it's all over in 60 seconds.

On Monday, do the right thing, and phone. If you can't, then email. Here is the contact info:

Minister of Citizenship and Immigration Diane Finley
phone 613.996.4974
fax 613.996.9749

Prime Minister Stephen Harper
phone 613.992.4211
fax 613.941.6900

Tell them you want the Government of Canada to:

  • rescind the deportation order against US war resister Corey Glass, and immediately cease all deportation proceedings against all war resisters

  • support the motion to allow Iraq war resisters to remain in Canada, and

  • support the will of the Canadian people, and not the US's war agenda.

    Tom said...

    Keep up the good fight. I am so glad the Liberals finally showed a back bone.

    Kim_in_TO said...

    No kidding!