war resister support campaign response to comments by jason kenney
If you've seen this video, where War Resister Support Campaign organizer Michelle Robidoux and war resister Kim Rivera (along with Kim's baby daughter Katie) speak to Citizenship and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney, you might have wondered about some of Mr Kenney's statements. You have every reason to wonder.
Here are some brief responses from Michelle on behalf of the Campaign. Many thanks to Gerry Condon for taking the time to flesh these out and send them around.
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Kenney: "I respect the political views of the people involved [with the protest] but I think it would be a big mistake to override our own courts to say that deserters of a voluntary military service in a democratic country can be refugees."
- This is not true. The Refugee Handbook does not discriminate against military personnel seeking refugee status based on whether or not they volunteered for the military or whether their military is part of a democratic country. What he says is not relevant and is erroneous when referring to the refugee criteria.
Kenney: "If you are concerned about American citizens who come to Canada illegally in violation of our laws ... If you are concerned of what fate they face south of the border, I would strongly recommend you take that up with [U.S. President Barack Obama’s] administration."
- Obama does not oversee the meting out of military justice. He could create an amnesty – but that will not happen until troops are out. And, these folks have not violated any Canadian law. Again, not relevant and erroneous.
Kenney: "Now if there are former members of the American military that want to come here as applicants to be candidates for a skilled for work category or apply for a visitor's visa, I'm happy to make sure my department receives and gives fair consideration to [their] application."
- Virtually none would qualify for skilled worker category and there are terms for visitor's visas – so again, a way to redirect the conversation to options that are not options.
Kenney says he does not have the power to allow war deserters to stay illegally in Canada.
- the Minister can grant status to pretty much anyone on humanitarian and compassionate grounds.
"When [American war deserters] come up [to Canada] with the intention of staying in Canada permanently without a visa, without proper visa status, they are in violation of our law. . . . My obligation is to enforce the law."
- He assumes that is their intention which it is not. They want status and are using all legal avenues to seek it – like many refugee claimants. Unless they violate the final deportation order, they are doing nothing illegal.
Michelle: Ultimately, these quotes from Kenney all serve to deflect from the issue that Parliament does indeed have a say in these matters, and that it did vote in favour of ceasing the deportations. The fact that Kenney refuses to abide by the democratic will of Parliament is an issue he is trying to avoid. That is also why his ministry removed the section of the Citizenship and Immigration Canada website that spoke about the Vietnam resisters who came to Canada: it is evidence of the fact that Canada made a political decision in that era to welcome both war resisters and draft resisters.