American war dodgers and their supporters wrap up a week of small protest events Saturday — part of a years-long fight to persuade the federal government to grant the deserters refuge in Canada.
Despite numerous court battles, protests and even pressure from the House of Commons, the campaign has proven barely a thorn in the side of an unyielding Harper government.
"We're feeling the wear and tear of the government's intransigence," Michelle Robidoux, of the War Resisters Support Campaign, conceded Thursday.
"We're very aware that (Immigration Minister) Jason Kenney is counting on a process of attrition to try to defeat the movement to let the war resisters stay."
Saturday's event in Toronto — which will feature a short film and the wife of one U.S. soldier who refused to redeploy to Iraq — ends a week of gatherings in a dozen cities and towns across Canada.
On Wednesday, for example, about a dozen people protested outside the constituency offices of Public Safety Minister Vic Toews in Steinbach, Man.
Among them was Iraqi war veteran Joshua Key, who said the rally aimed to remind both the government and Canadians that the war dodgers and their issues had not gone away.
Scores of American soldiers, many with spouses or children in tow, fled to Canada starting seven years ago rather than fight in Iraq or Afghanistan.
They argued the U.S.-led war on Iraq was illegal under international law, and that American soldiers were committing atrocities against civilians.
"It's just like nobody in the military really cared what happened," Cpl. Jeremy Brockway, 26, who served in Iraq with the Marines in 2006 and 2007, has said.
"It's just disregard for human life."
Supporters of the Minnesota-born Brockway say he has extreme post-traumatic stress disorder but was ordered to redeploy to Iraq despite objections from military psychiatrists.
He and his wife Ashlea — who will speak for him in Toronto on Saturday — live in Port Colborne, Ont., with their two Canadian-born children.
The tormented Brockway, who arrived in Canada in early 2008, can barely talk about his experiences and seldom leaves his apartment.
Still, neither the refugee board nor government has viewed the soldiers' requests for asylum or residency with much sympathy.
In ruling after ruling, the Immigration and Refugee Board has nixed their applications for protection on the grounds they would be prosecuted, not persecuted, if returned to the United States.
Kenney himself has referred to the American soldiers as "bogus" refugee claimaints.
"We reject the ridiculous notion . . . that President Barack Obama is persecuting deserters from voluntary military service," Immigration Minister Jason Kenney said in October.
Kenney's spokesman Alykhan Velshi confirmed Thursday that "nothing" had changed in the government's position.
A majority of MPs has called on the Conservative government to let the war dodgers stay, and polls have suggested most Canadians are sympathetic to their plight.
Still, at least two of the soldiers have been deported to the U.S. to courts martial and prison terms for desertion.
Most others — some with children born in Canada — have quietly hung on.
One, Jeremy Hinzman who came to Canada in January 2004, won a Federal Court of Appeal ruling last year that sent his case back to the refugee board.
The court found his sincerely held beliefs and motivations for coming to Canada should have been considered.
Supporters say that kind of court victory has helped keep their campaign energized.