Liberal-NDP coalition would protect war resisters from deportation: MPs
A Liberal-NDP coalition government will protect war resisters from deportation if it comes into power, MPs from both parties said Wednesday.
Liberal MP Mario Silva and NDP MP Olivia Chow have said their parties are committed to preventing the deportation of American war resisters, five of whom are facing jail time if sent back to the U.S. in the next two weeks.
"To all those brave men and women who have in fact objected to [the Iraq] war, we say bravo. We say welcome, you should be here in Canada," Silva said at a news conference in Toronto that was attended by several war resisters and their families.
Silva called on the government to pay heed to a motion passed last June by all parties, except the Conservatives, to let conscientious objectors take up permanent residence in Canada.
"We're asking again the Minister of Immigration Jason Kenney to do the right thing, to search his heart, to do what is right," Silva said.
Five war resisters have been ordered to leave Canada between now and the end of the month, according to the War Resisters Support Campaign, which participated in Wednesday's news conference.
The campaign is in contact with about 50 former American military personnel across the country, but estimates there are several hundred people living underground in Canada, according to spokesman Lee Zaslofsky.
Two of the resisters, Chris Telske and Cliff Cornell who live in British Columbia, are facing immediate deportation.
Teske's request for a stay of his deportation order was denied by a federal court judge this week, meaning he will be deported Friday. A former paratrooper who served in Afghanistan after Sept. 11, 2001, Teske deserted to Canada just before he was sent to Iraq because he was "deeply troubled with the morality of armed conflict."
"I am proud of my decision to come to Canada," he said in a statement. "I am proud I had the courage to follow my conscience."
Kimberly Rivera, reported to be the first U.S. female deserter seeking asylum in Canada, left the U.S. army after her experiences in Iraq left her emotionally scarred and unprepared to undergo another tour of duty.
"I had to decide not to be a cruel person and hurt good people and attack their families, as I was doing," said Rivera, who came to Canada in 2007.
"I hurt many and I'm ashamed of that."
The mother of three's request to stay on humanitarian and compassionate grounds was rejected at an Immigration and Refugee Board hearing in Mississauga, Ont. Her family has been told to leave Canada by Jan. 27.
A spokesman for Kenney, Alykhan Velshi, told CBC News earlier this month that the government doesn't believe such refugee claims are legitimate.
"Although the Immigration and Refugee Board is an independent agency that will consider each asylum claim on a case-by-case basis, it's our position as a government that, as a general rule, military deserters from the United States are not genuine refugees under the internationally accepted meaning of the term," Velshi said in an email.
In July, Robin Long became the first American deserter removed by Canadian authorities. Long, who had an infant child with his Canadian partner, was sentenced to 15 months in a U.S. prison after pleading guilty to a reduced charge of desertion.
Chow decried the Canadian government's decision to deport people such as Long as a perverse example of "justice."
"We are a nation of compassion and of peace," she said. "We really should not deport war resisters into American jails."
With files from the Canadian Press