3.26.2005

defector

Toronto Star columnist Thomas Walkom has an idea that would make my life a whole lot easier.

Walkom agrees, as do I, that the American conscientious objector Jeremy Hinzman did not qualify for refugee status in Canada based on his refusal to serve in Iraq. I admire Hinzman (and all war resisters) no end, but he's not facing persecution and can't claim to be a refugee. That's pretty clear.

If you haven't been following this story, here's some background: Jeremy Hinzman's website, an interview with Hinzman by Amy Goodman of Democracy Now!, and a story in the Star after his bid for refugee status was denied. I object to the newspaper's use of the words "dodger" and "deserter", which is why I offer the two other links as well.

Anyway, back to the columnist who wants to help people like me. During the Vietnam War, draft resisters were able to drive across the border, settle in, then apply for resident status from inside Canada. Most Americans who muse about moving to Canada think this is still the case. People I speak with are always surprised to learn that there's any immigration process at all; they assume I could move to Toronto the same way I could move to, say, San Francisco.

However, since 1976 people wishing to emigrate to Canada have had to apply from outside the country. But Walkom notes:
During the Cold War, for instance, Canada created a special category for immigrants from Communist countries. We called them defectors and they were almost always allowed in.

So let's consider Hinzman and other U.S. deserters to be defectors from George W. Bush's America. Most Canadians don't agree with his war in Iraq and neither does the federal government. Why not follow through?

Let's allow these defectors to apply for permanent resident status — not as refugees but as immigrants — after they've crossed the border.

And then let's apply the same standards we would for any other immigrant: Do they have useful skills? Do they pass security checks? Are they free of criminal records?

If these standards were applied to Hinzman and his wife, social worker Nga Nguyen, they would almost certainly be accepted. So, why don't we let them make their case as potential immigrants? We can only win.
I don't want to be labeled "a Bush refugee", since I was leaving no matter who won the 2004 election. (And by the way, who did win?) But a defector - that's just perfect.

8 comments:

B. W. Ventril said...

And defecting is so deliciously retro. Maybe you should pose as a cultural atache.

L-girl said...

Oo, sounds like something out of Steed and Mrs. Peel. What do I have to do?

B. W. Ventril said...

Well, you need to wear a big [faux] fur hat. And ask to be taken to the nearest Soviet embassy. Actually, given that Cuba is the prime vacation destination for Canadians, you sort of are defecting. But only for 2 weeks a year.

L-girl said...

And, um, only if I go to Cuba. But I'll go order my fake-fur hat right now.

RobfromAlberta said...

"If these standards were applied to Hinzman and his wife, social worker Nga Nguyen, they would almost certainly be accepted. So, why don't we let them make their case as potential immigrants? We can only win."

The answer is obvious. The political backlash from the US would be too much to bear at a time when Canada-US relations are already the worst they've been in recent memory. Now is not the time for futher antagonism.

B. W. Ventril said...

Or is it? Personally I think that Canada should get out of NAFTA and join the EU.

RobfromAlberta said...

I see little evidence to suggest the EU has any interest in admitting new members from outside Europe.

B. W. Ventril said...

Really? But what about the EU's warm, overly enthusiastic embrace of Turkey?