open letter to jason kenney: "history is tapping our shoulders"

Last night in Toronto, supporters of US war resisters in Canada honoured International Day for Conscientious Objection with a group letter-writing session.

This letter was written by Nicole Marie Burton, the partner of war resister Jules Tindungan. It affected me deeply, and I asked Nicole for permission to share it with you.
Tuesday, May 15, 2012

To the Right Honourable Minister Jason Kenney,

I join many others in writing you today, a day that is known as the International Day of Conscientious Objection.

I write you as a Canadian citizen, a worker and taxpayer, and a voter. I write to you further as the partner of a U.S. Iraq War Resister--an Afghanistan veteran who, upon returning home was offered a simple choice amid difficult circumstances: "volunteer" to go to Iraq--go back to a combat zone within months of a 15-month tour of duty--or be stop-lossed* and sent on the second deployment anyway.

As fortunate citizens of a relatively peaceful society, many of us go through our entire lives without so much as facing a single difficult circumstance as might require an objection on the basis of conscience--saying "No" in a time when everyone around you is saying "Yes".

That is why, when we are presented with such cases--as rarely as they may be presented--we must listen. The reasons these circumstances were difficult are the reasons that they apply to conscientious objection. They pertain to entire policies, practices, and cultures happening now within the U.S. Army that violate sections of the Geneva Convention--policies like "Recon by Fire," where my husband and his fellow unit members were instructed to fire mortars blindly into Afghan moutainside (a herd of sheep or nearby village be damned); practices, no-where dumb enough to be written as policy, like strapping the dead bodies of Afghan combatants on the hood of your humvees and then driving them through the nearest settlements (to show the locals what happens to people who work with the Taliban); and finally, cultures, like the culture of silence and shame surrounding post-traumatic stress... one that sees symptoms (including suicidal tendencies) un-diagnosed or treated with the wrong substances. My husband was personally given medication to help him sleep in Afghanistan that was deliberately left off of his record, setting him up for disaster when he returned stateside and realized that there was no record or prescription--nothing at all--to help him cope, on a very basic level, with the horrible things that he had witnessed.

Having a stressful job is one thing. Having a stressful job because you were instructed to do things that are illegal is another. Fortunately, there are international legal precedents that are in place to support these individuals if and when they have the courage to resist the wrong orders.

This is why we listen. But furthermore, it is why we also must act.

No one wants to believe that they are a part of history--right now. But these are the circumstances when history is tapping our shoulders, reminding us that we've seen things like this before--and learned hard lessons.

History is not on the side of the Harper Government in this matter. And, if it is of any empirical consequence, neither are the Canadian people.

War Resisters have a right to stay in Canada, and Operational Bulletin 202 must be rescinded now. If the Conservative Government wishes to deny what is historically and democratically correct in this matter, it has already relegated itself not to Canada's future, but to its past.

History has a way of revealing everything.

Yours Most Truly,
Nicole Marie Burton,

Cc'd to Immigration Critics Jinny Sims (NDP) and Kevin Lamoureux (Liberals);
Cc'd to my Minister of Parliament, Olivia Chow (Trinity-Spadina, NDP)

* Stop-loss is a term primarily used in the United States Military. In the U.S. military, it is the involuntary extension of a service member's active duty service under the enlistment contract in order to retain them beyond their initial end of term of service (ETS) date and up to their contractually agreed end of obligated service (EOS).
If you haven't emailed Jason Kenney yet, asking that OB202 be rescinded, you can do so here. The email will also be sent to your MP and the Opposition Immigration Critics.

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