5.26.2010

in court, in parliament and on the street, we hear the cry: let them stay!

Yesterday was a big day for US war resisters in Canada and their supporters.

In the morning, about 50 people gathered in front of the Federal Court building in Toronto. We held a huge banner bearing thousands of SUPPORT BILL C-440 postcards. I'll collect photos from and post them later in the week.

Jeremy Hinzman was there, of course, with his partner Nga Nguyen and their two children, Liam and Canadian-born Meghan. War resisters Phil McDowell, Chuck Wiley, Dale Landry and Kimberly Rivera were also there, along with many people from Jeremy's Quaker community, Catholics for Peace and other peace activists.

MP Borys Wrzesnewskyj also attended the rally and addressed supporters. Borys' support for war resisters is steadfast and impressive: along with Olivia Chow and a Campaigner, he traveled to San Diego at his own expense to visit jailed war resister Robin Long.

We were all surprised and joyed that Bruce and Russell drove in from Buffalo for the rally and hearing. Bruce refused to serve in Vietnam and lived in Toronto for many years in the 1970s. He is a legendary peace activist and a great supporter of war resisters (and of this blog!). We've been friends online for a long time but met in person for the first time yesterday. Russell is another Buffalo peace activist and friend who writes the excellent blog Adopt Resistance. I am grateful that working for peace has brought such wonderful people into my life.

The hearing was edifying and frustrating, the way these federal court hearings tend to be. The case before the Federal Court of Appeals right now is a tiny, legalistic portion of Jeremy Hinzman's case. It hinges on whether the refugee officer correctly assessed Jeremy's application to remain in Canada on humanitarian and compassionate grounds, called an "H&C". The Federal Court of Appeal "certified a question", thus giving Lawyer Alyssa Manning another shot at Jeremy's case. The best possible outcome would be the Court ordering a new review of Jeremy's H&C by a different officer, whcih could potentially affect the outcome of all the war resisters' cases. This is unlikely to happen and we are not counting on it.

Alyssa argued brilliantly before a panel of three judges. The CIC lawyer, as usual, had nothing.

Much of the submissions were analyses of the decisions in Jeremy's Pre-Removal Risk Assessment (PRRA) and his H&C. The standards for each application are very different. To give a positive decision in a PRRA, the PRRA Officer must find that, if deported, the applicant faces persecution. To find a positive decision in an H&C, the officer must find that the applicant faces undue hardship. Big difference.

Yet, Alyssa showed, Jeremy's H&C decision was a cut-and-paste of his PRRA decision with the words "PRRA" changed to "H&C". The H&C officer did not properly analyze the evidence with an eye to hardship, and indeed completely ignored some key evidence.

One of the three judges seemed not to understand a point Alyssa was making, and at times seemed not even to care about her answers. He belaboured the point with question after question, making Alyssa explain and re-explain the concept ten different ways. After constantly interrupting and badgering her on the same point, the judge chided Alyssa for using up so much of her allotted time. It was frustrating for all of us watching. As always, we were incredibly impressed with Alyssa's quick thinking, poise and complete command of the material.

The CIC lawyer, as usual, had nothing. Another judge - who seemed much sharper and more engaged than the judge who was badgering Alyssa - asked the CIC lawyer to show her some specific evidence from Jeremy's H&C decision. She said, "Show me where the officer analyzed that."

He showed her something else.

She said, "No, that's not the same point."

CIC laywer: "It's a related point."

Judge: "They are related? Are they first cousins or tenth cousins?" Much suppressed mirth in the spectators area.

Judge: "Why is it so difficult to find the analysis of this question? When we ask to see evidence on this point, why are we always shown something implied or related, but not the actual analysis itself? Please show me where the H&C officer grappled with this question."

Silence.

And more silence.

My notes say "crickets". A friend's notebook shows a little drawing of a tumbleweed rolling through the courtroom. As the silence stretched on, NCF said she almost felt sorry for the guy. (She said the same thing in the Galloway hearing. These Canadians, they're too nice!)

The CIC lawyer eventually said, "Oh, here we are!", then once again pointed out some related or implied statements, but no real evidence.

This was amusing and we enjoyed laughing about it over pints and lunch, but unfortunately, it means little to the actual outcome of the case. The Federal Court of Appeals is a conservative body, and they are unlikely to break any new ground on the question in these issues.

But still, there is hope. And while we're hoping, we continue working for what we really need: a political solution.

* * * *

Later in the day, in Ottawa, the second reading of Bill C-440 began. Gerard Kennedy, who sponsored the bill, spoke eloquently and forcefully about what this means for Canada, and why Canadians care should care - and do care - about this bill. Bill Siksay, who seconded the bill, asked an excellent question about "the fiction of the volunteer army". Olivia Chow, Thierry St-Cyr and Mario Silva all spoke strongly on behalf of war resisters. The government repeated the same old lies, all of which were cut to shreds with the truth being spoken from our side.

The Hansard transcript of the debate is here. If you care about this issue, I highly recommend reading the whole thing. It's beautiful to hear these words spoken in the House of Commons. The Harper Government has hijacked Canada, but the real Canada, the Canada we love, lives, and this is proof.

In addition to reading the transcript, if you took a few minutes to thank MPs Kennedy, Siksay, Chow, St-Cyr and Silva, you would be doing something important for the campaign.

Gerard Kennedy: Kennedy.G - at - parl.gc.ca
Olivia Chow: ChowO - at - parl.gc.ca
Bill Siksay: siksay.b - at - parl.gc.ca
Thierry St-Cyr: St-Cyr.T - at - parl.gc.ca
Mario Silva : silva.m - at - parl.gc.ca

4 comments:

Mary/Bruce said...

Russel and I could not have imagined any place else to be than where were yesterday.

Kim_in_TO said...

Thanks for the update, as usual. I was upset - I was planning to be at the rally, but work interfered.

I did just send out thank yous to the MPs.

L-girl said...

I was surprised to not see you there - I assumed it was either work or you were sick. Glad it was work.

Great you are thanking the MPs. Gerard Kennedy told us that is the single most important thing you can do for lobbying! And it is often overlooked. I'm going to try to get better about it.

Cornelia said...

Yep, recognition is very good and helpful and important. It's resource-oriented, kind of. I just wrote them also:

Thanks for standing up for war resisters

Hi,

I read the transcript of the discussion re: war resisters in Parliament

http://www2.parl.gc.ca/HousePublications/Publication.aspx?Language=E&Mode=1&Parl=40&Ses=3&DocId=4548178#SOB-3178660

and I would like to tell you that I appreciate your steadfast support and your political courage in standing up to the Harper Conservatives so much! Great job. Right on!

Hopefully Bill C-440 can be passed into a law in not too distant a future. Once again, thanks for the important work you do.

All the best
Cornelia