15 May 2012
The Honourable Jason Kenney, P.C., M.P.
Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism
Citizenship and Immigration Canada
Ottawa, Ontario K1A 1L1
Re: International Conscientious Objectors Day
Dear Minister Kenney,
Today is International Conscientious Objectors Day. On this occasion and on behalf of
the Commission on Justice and Peace of the Canadian Council of Churches, I am writing
to you to express our support for the American conscientious objectors to the war in
Iraq (commonly called the “war resisters”) who have sought refuge in Canada.
Several member churches of the Canadian Council of Churches have provided care and
support for the war resisters since January 2004 when the first US war resisters came to
More than eight years on, our concern deepens as this matter remains unresolved,
leaving the US war resisters and their families, now well-established in Canada and
contributing to their local communities, in limbo.
On July 22, 2010, Citizenship and Immigration Canada sent a directive (Operational
Bulletin 202)1 to all immigration officers in Canada, focusing on the processing of
military deserters who claim refugee status in Canada. The first paragraph of the
directive implies that military deserters from other countries who are seeking refugee
protection in Canada may also be serious criminals and therefore inadmissible to
Canada, as desertion is a serious crime in some countries. When this effort to
discourage military personnel prevents them from exercising conscientious objection
rights guaranteed in the UN Handbook for Refugees then this is not in accord with
respect to Canada’s adherence to the norms of universal human rights.
Conscientious objection to military service, whether by draft resisters or deserters, is a
widely recognized ground for granting refugee protection, both in Canada and
internationally. As churches, rights of conscience and religion hold a particular
significance for us as we seek to encourage people to live faithful lives. We are of the
opinion that when they have followed their conscience in the decision they made to
refuse to serve in war and to come to Canada then their circumstances warrant
humanitarian and compassionate relief. Their beliefs are protected under domestic and
international law, and facilitating their punishment by returning them to the United
States, in our opinion, is regrettable (a backgrounder on theological and legal
arguments in favour of conscientious objection is appended).
We ask the Government of Canada to either allow the US war resisters to stay in Canada
on humanitarian and compassionate grounds or to create a mechanism, perhaps a
revision of Bill C-440 that would enable them to apply for status from within Canada.
We look forward to your response and would welcome an opportunity to meet regarding this concern.
Commission on Justice and Peace of the Canadian Council of Churches
Stephen Harper, Prime Minister of Canada
Jinny Sims, Immigration, Citizenship and Multiculturalism Critic (NDP)
Kevin Lamoureux, Immigration, Citizenship and Multiculturalism Critic (Liberal
André Bellavance, Immigration, Citizenship and Multiculturalism Critic (Bloc
canadian council of churches calls on jason kenney to let u.s. war resisters stay in canada
This letter was hand-delivered to Immigration Minister Jason Kenney, from the Canadian Council of Churches. The Council is the largest ecumenical body in Canada, representing 23 churches, comprising 85% of the Christians in Canada.