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.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.
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.