12.30.2008

jason kenney admits interfering in war resister refugee claims

Here's John Hagan, author of Northern Passage: American Vietnam War Resisters in Canada (among other books), writing in the Toronto Sun. (Support can come in the strangest places!)

Please read the whole thing. Hagan writes about developments I haven't blogged about before.
Until recently, the federal government toed a careful line on its claim to fairly treat American Iraq war resisters who are seeking refuge and sanctuary in Canada.

The party line was each resister would receive individualized and fair consideration to stay in Canada on humanitarian and compassionate grounds.

There presumably was no "one fits all" outcome for the former soldiers fleeing America in search of protection as conscientious objectors -- a protection they realize it is impossible to attain south of the border.

Diane Finley, minister of citizenship and immigration until October, guaranteed in Parliament and during election forums each war resister would be entitled to access current immigration programs. They were to have their applications for permanent residence decided on an impartial, case-by-case basis, without fear of a preconceived policy or pre-judgement.

Yet, in the light of renewed media scrutiny and with less than a week remaining before Christmas, the office of Jason Kenney, the new minister, contradicted that promise.

"The government remains convinced that U.S. military deserters are not genuine refugees and do not fall under internationally accepted definitions of people in need of protection ... we have successfully advanced this position before three independent tribunals," a spokesman in Kenney's office said.

The immigration officers who are deciding the war resisters' applications do not constitute "independent tribunals." They exercise decision-making authority delegated to them by the minister of citizenship and immigration.

The spokesman's statement provides no insight into why the government has now apparently adopted a policy in favour of uniformly denying war resisters' applications to stay in Canada on humanitarian and compassionate grounds.

Furthermore, Kenny's stated policy is at odds with three recent findings in Federal Court, which in the cases of Corey Glass, Jeremy Hinzman and Matt Lowell found American Iraq war resisters would suffer irreparable harm if they returned to the U.S.

Kenny needs to explain to the Canadian public and to the MPs who voted to let the resisters stay why he disagrees with the findings of the three recent Federal Court cases.

This month's developments were not only unexpected and untimely, they were unfair.

As the holiday season continues, Canadians who continue to support letting the war resisters stay deserve a fair and coherent response from their government.

True fairness would impose a moratorium on the deportation of war resisters. This would allow repair of the departmental process and time for reconsideration of the blanket opposition to these conscientious objectors to the Iraq War. Such a moratorium could also allow each of the resisters a day in court.

Robin Long, the first Iraq war resister to be arrested and deported to the U.S. by the Harper government, faced a military court martial on his return in July. He is now serving a 15-month jail sentence and has a criminal record.

The uncomfortable fact is Long was not just punished for coming to Canada -- he was given a harsh sentence because he spoke out against the Iraq war and acted on his objections to this war in a conscientious and public way.

Many resisters who are threatened with deportation by the Harper government are spending this holiday season in fear of sharing Long's fate.

The war resisters in Canada need your help, now more than ever. The list of pending deportations grows longer every day. We need the government to stop all deportation proceedings against war resisters until they can receive full and due process in the courts (or until a new government lets them all stay).

Please take a moment to write your MP, to email Jason Kenney, or to write a letter to the editor.

Remember, Parliament already voted to let them stay. Almost two-thirds of Canadians (64% in the most recent poll) want Canada to allow war resisters to stay. Canada should be - and be - a refuge from militarism, not the enforcement arm of the US military.

Minister of Citizenship and Immigration Jason Kenney
613.954.1064
613.992.2235
minister@cic.gc.ca
Kenney.j@parl.gc.ca

If you email, please cc:

Liberal party immigration critic Borys Wrzesnewskyj: wrzesnewskyj.b@parl.gc.ca

NDP immigration critic Olivia Chow: chow.o@parl.gc.ca

Bloc Québécois immigration critic Thierry St-Cyr: st-cyr.t@parl.gc.ca

War Resister Support Campaign: resisters@sympatico.ca

2 comments:

Gordie_Canuk said...

The Toronto Sun may be decidedly rightward leaning, however it is my paper of choice for their editorial policies. While guys like Mansur and Worthington among others present a right wing argument, you'll also see columns by the likes of Eric Margolis (on Sundays)...Buzz Hargrove is a frequent contributor as well.

War resistors should definitely be allowed to say, Canada should always be a home for people of conscience.

Cornelia said...

Great article!!! Made for quite a "nice" email to the guy (cc included!!!), haha! After quoting it in full length, I wrote:

Dear Mr. Kenney,
What do you say now?
This should be pretty hard to explain for you, I guess. No worries, you need not justify yourself getting back to me at all - unless you or your coworkers of course choose, too. But it might be a good idea to reconsider your policy and to let the war resisters stay. There's probably an election soon to come in January, and Canadians will get to decide at the ballot and most of them don't favor your policy. Yes, I know the people working at the IRB can get some guidelines from your ministry - much as we might oppose them in this case but due to checks and balances, the courts can make their own decisions and some courts have stood up and protected the war resisters and the will of Parliament and of the majority of the population. They obviously have a different estimation from yours and they have stressed some very relevant points that might be well worth taking into account. These courts haven't come to their conclusions without ample reason.
I really regret that you are so determined to have the war resisters deported, even more than Ms. Finley. Maybe the consideration that Bush will be sent packing by January and Obama and his Administration might lesh push the issue could help you to reconsider your policy, too.