It's an excellent letter; I hope you'll read it.
Monday, January 19, 2009
Martin Luther King Service Day
The Honourable Jason Kenney, P.C., M.P.
Minister for Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism
Citizenship and Immigration Canada
Ottawa, Ontario K1A 1L1
Dear Minister Kenney,
Catholics for Peace-Toronto is a local group of Canadians affiliated with Pax Christi International, a non-profit, non-governmental Catholic peace movement working on a global scale on a wide variety of issues in the fields of human rights, human security, disarmament and demilitarisation, just world order and religion and violent conflict.
We are writing to express our alarm and deep concern over your recent public remarks, referring to US war resisters as "bogus refugee claimants". Equally troubling for us was the subsequent statement by your spokesman Alykhan Velshi, that "it's our position as a government that, as a general rule, military deserters from the United States are not genuine refugees under the internationally accepted meaning of the term."
We are among the majority of Canadians who support these individuals who have come to Canada with legitimate conscientious objection to war, seeking refuge. We have the greatest respect for them and their decision to follow their conscience and oppose war. We want them to be permitted to stay here in Canada and help us as Canadians to work together in building a culture of peace.
We endorse the concerns of Amnesty International and the Canadian Council for Refugees as well as the War Resisters Support Campaign and other advocacy groups in this matter which have warned that these remarks and statements could unfairly influence the impartiality of the refugee process in this matter.
In our view, these remarks and statements of your Ministry give the distinct appearance of political interference which could be seen as a series of verbal attacks which threaten the legitimate rights of certain individual claimants to an unbiased opinion, based on fairness and due process. We believe that fundamental Canadian values as well as universal human rights of conscience and religious liberty are at stake here.
Furthermore, we are shocked to see you arguing that these claims are causing delays for others in the process. This is not a credible argument since these specific cases are minuscule in comparative number and surely have no appreciable impact on the delays faced by other refugee claimants. On the contrary, the huge backlog and delays are in fact the fault of your government which has failed to appoint sufficient Board members.
Minister Kenney, we believe that as a Minister of the Government of Canada, it is highly inappropriate for you and members of your staff to jeopardize the independence, impartiality and fairness of the Immigration and Refugee Board. In this regard, we are of the conviction that everyone, including war resisters, has a right to expect their applications will be dealt with in a fair and impartial manner.
In response to your remarks about the legitimacy of these individuals and their rights in international law, we wish to draw your attention to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights resolution 1998/77 which recognizes that "persons performing military service may develop conscientious objections" and thus have the right to object to military service, whether they initially volunteered for it or not.
We urge you to stop the deportation proceedings against all US Iraq War Resisters and implement the Parliamentary motion of June 2008 to allow war resisters to apply for Permanent Resident status in Canada. Grant these good persons of conscience your permission to stay here in Canada, and help us build together a culture of peace.