toronto star says let them stay

Let U.S. deserters stay

With support from all three opposition parties, the House of Commons last week again voted for a motion calling on the Conservative government to allow American deserters from the Iraq war to stay in Canada. And again the government paid no attention.

The opposition parties note that during the Vietnam War some 50,000 American draft dodgers and deserters were given asylum in Canada. "It is an identical parallel situation right now because what is happening in Iraq is very similar (to Vietnam)," said New Democrat MP Olivia Chow during debate on the motion. "Canada chose not to fight the war in Iraq. It chose not to fight the war in Vietnam. We really should allow war resisters to remain in Canada."

But Conservative MP Laurie Hawn, parliamentary secretary to the minister of defence, responded: "They are not identical at all. In Vietnam it was a conscripted army, and in Iraq it is a volunteer army."

Not entirely true. Many Americans (and even some Canadians) volunteered to fight in Vietnam, and some of them later became disillusioned with the war and deserted.

The government's real concern is that the Americans will be mightily displeased if we don't send back their deserters. That may, indeed, have been the case when George Bush was president. But the concern seems misplaced with Barack Obama now in power. He has vowed to end the war.

There are not many U.S. deserters seeking refugee here – about 200 in all. Those who have already been deported to the U.S. have been sentenced to time in the military stockade. Allowing the remainder to stay here is the humane response.

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