globe and mail on robin long deportation order

News of imminent deportation shocks American army deserter

Rod Mickleburgh

July 9, 2008

VANCOUVER -- Just days after a key Federal Court decision in favour of U.S. army deserters trying to stay in Canada, the Canada Border Services Agency is preparing to deport "war resister" Robin Long.

If he is deported, he will be the first of an estimated 200 deserters who have sought refuge in Canada to be returned to the United States, marking an official end to the country's policy of welcoming American draft dodgers and deserters that began during the Vietnam War.

The 25-year-old failed refugee claimant was arrested in Nelson on a deportation warrant on Friday, the same day as deserter Joshua Key successfully appealed the denial of his refugee claim.

Mr. Long remains in jail in the idyllic Interior city, home to many young men who have fled U.S. military service because of the war in Iraq.

"His removal is imminent ...probably within a day or two," border agency lawyer Rick Lengert told a hastily arranged Immigration and Refugee Board hearing yesterday.

The news was a shock to Mr. Long, his supporters and his lawyer, Shepherd Moss, who had been given no warning that he was in danger of being sent back to the United States so quickly.

Mr. Moss served notice that he would seek an emergency, after-hours sitting of the Federal Court to ask for an immediate stay of the deportation, in light of last week's court decision in favour of Mr. Key.

Late yesterday, the border agency agreed to make no move to deport Mr. Long until Monday.

But his supporters were nonetheless outraged by the suddenness of his arrest and near deportation.

The immigration hearing was told that the decision to approve his deportation was made two months ago, but no one on Mr. Long's side was informed until just before the hearing began yesterday afternoon.

"Basically, they're trying to kidnap war resisters and get them into the hands of George Bush," steamed Bob Ages of the Vancouver War Resisters Support Campaign. "This is the closest thing to rendition we've had in this country since Maher Arar. It's outrageous. What are these enforcement people up to?"

Mr. Ages said Immigration Minister Diane Finley should be pressed about the matter, given Friday's pro-resister court decision and last month's vote in Parliament favouring a motion to grant asylum to American deserters.

The House of Commons vote was not binding on the government.

Mr. Long left the army after two years service and arrived in Canada in 2005. He has said he deserted because he did not want to participate in "an illegal war of aggression in Iraq. Morally, I felt I couldn't do that."

His claim for refugee status was rejected.

He was arrested for violating terms of his release from previous custody by failing to notify the border agency of his latest address in Nelson.

Testifying by telephone from his Nelson jail cell, Mr. Long told board panelist Leeanne King that he had been "couch surfing" at various local residences, and didn't realize the seriousness of having to report every time he changed locations.

But Ms. King ordered that he remain in custody. "There is no stay in place. You are removable," she told Mr. Long over the phone. "The department is going to remove you tomorrow, or as soon as possible ... so obviously now your physical whereabouts are even more crucial."

Mr. Long's actions resulted in the forfeit of a $5,000 bond posted by Mr. Ages, guaranteeing that he would abide by the conditions imposed for his release.

But Mr. Ages said he was more concerned about what will happen to the young deserter, who said he joined the army shortly after 9/11 in a burst of patriotism.

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