breaking news: rodney watson becomes first iraq war resister to enter sanctuary

There was a media conference in Vancouver today, revealing the whereabouts of US war resister Rodney Watson. From the Ottawa Citizen.
U.S. army deserter Rodney Watson has become the first fugitive from service in Iraq to enter church sanctuary in Canada.

Monday morning, the 31-year-old told reporters he has been living in refuge at the First United Church in Vancouver since Sept. 18.

"I don't believe it will be just for me to be deported," said Watson, flanked by church ministers and supporters. Watson lost his refugee claim on Sept. 11, and was expecting to be deported back to the U.S., where he faces jail for refusing to do a second tour of duty in Iraq.

The main reason Watson wants to stay is to be with his 10-month-old son and fiancee, who live in Vancouver. Watson said his son is currently in foster care, but wouldn't say why. He said he plans to get married and settle in B.C.

Ric Matthews, minister with the First United Church, said Watson has an apartment at the church, and is fed on-site. Watson cannot leave the grounds of the church.

Matthews said the church agreed to let Watson take refuge because it doesn't support the Iraq War, or the way the U.S. military treated Watson — who signed up to be a military cook, but was ordered to find explosives.

"We expect the authorities will continue to respect this place as a place of sanctuary," he said.

Sarah Bjorknas of the War Resisters Support Campaign Vancouver said three out of the five military deserters who have been deported from Canada since 2008 have been jailed.

A statement by Vancouver NDP MP Libby Davies said she'll continue to ask the Tory government to honour two non-binding votes in Parliament to allow army deserters to seek asylum in Canada.

"The government has chosen to ignore the will of the majority view of Canadians," said Bjorknas.

This man can stay in Canada legally. Canadians can make this happen. Tell your MP to support Bill C-440!


redsock said...

U.S. army deserter Rodney Watson has become the first fugitive from service in Iraq to enter church sanctuary in Canada.


Scott M. said...

Agreed (If AFT is what I think it is).

When you guys first started getting involved, I mentioned at the time I was surprised it hadn't happened already.

L-girl said...

Thanks Scott. It's come close a few times, but the situation changed. This time, it didn't. Thanks for your support.

L-girl said...

I will also add that it's a hell of a lot more complicated than people may realize. Many times commenters have said (something like), "What's the big deal, just walk into a church and declare sanctuary." Naive at best. The reality is quite complicated for everyone involved.

impudent strumpet said...

If people can't just walk into a church and request sanctuary, the churches really should make that known, because I'm probably not the only person who thought you can totally just do that.

I wonder if they get people walking in and requesting sanctuary and they have to turn them away for whatever the complicated reasons are.

L-girl said...

Interesting. I wonder. I'm going to guess yes, they do get requests that they cannot accept.

I have enormous respect for the people in these communities who are willing to go the distance.

Boyd M L Reimer said...

Hopefully the religion angle on this news story will start a debate among all the self-proclaimed "Christians" who vote for Stephen "Thou shalt kill" Harper.

Here's another religion angle:

On Oct 2, 2008, Harper said on a TV debate that his own support for the Iraq war was "absolutely an error." But when US soldiers make the same error, then he deports them to jail. –That’s not exactly “doing to others as you want them to do to you?”

Cornelia said...

Hope he can stay.