Top court refuses to hear cases of U.S. deserters

The Supreme Court of Canada will not hear the cases of two Americans who fled to Canada separately in 2004 after learning they were to be deployed to Iraq.

Canada's top courtwill not hear the appeals of two American army deserters whose requests for refugee status were denied.

TheSupreme Court of Canada refused Thursday to hear the cases of Jeremy Hinzman and Brandon Hughey, who each deserted to Canada in 2004 after learning they were to be deployed to Iraq.

The high court, as usual,gave no reasons forits refusal.

Themen both applied for refugee status in 2004.

The Immigration and Refugee Board rejected their claims in 2005. The Federal Court and the Federal Court of Appeal have also refused to reviewthe cases.

Hinzman is believed to be the first American soldier to have fled to Canada because of the Iraq war, but dozens more may be in the country.

He enlisted in the U.S. army as a paratrooper with the 82nd Airborne Division and desertedin 2004 to avoid going toIraq. Hefled to Canada with his wife and preschool-age son.

Nowliving in Toronto and working as a bike courier, Hinzman faces a court martial and a possible five-yearprison sentence if he returns to the U.S.

In response to the ruling, the men's lawyer,Jeffry House, is asking thefederal government to set up a program that wouldgrantprotectiontowar deserters. Heis calling on the Conservatives to issue a ministerial permit that would allow his clients to stay in Canada.

The War Resisters Support Campaign also saidthe federal governmentshouldprovide political asylum to war desertersseeking refuge in Canada. Thecoaliton of community, faith, labour and other organizationsis planning to hold a demonstration in Toronto on Thursday night.

"We call on Parliament to take a stand by enacting a provision that would allow U.S. war resisters and their families to stay in Canada," said actor and activist Shirley Douglas.

"The Supreme Court has handed the issue back to Parliament. It is urgent that Parliament demonstrate leadership and act in accordance with Canadian tradition."

Denied political asylum

A release issued by the group on Thursday saida June 2007 poll by Strategic Communicationsshowed64.6 per cent of respondents in Ontario believe U.S. wardeserters should be allowed tosettle in Canada. The poll had an error margin of four per cent, 19 times out of 20.

During his three-day hearing before the immigration board, Hinzman said he sought refugee status because he opposed the war in Iraq on moral grounds and thought the U.S. invasion violated international human rights standards.

An immigration panel in March 2005 denied Hinzman political asylum, saying he failed to convince them he would be persecuted if he returned to the U.S. The board also denied asylum to Hinzman's wife and son.

The Immigration and Refugee Board members said the U.S. is a democratic country and would provide Hinzman with a fair trial.

With files from the Canadian Press