war resister event in mississauga tonight; mp kennedy calls for debate on bill

If you are in Mississauga or Oakville or thereabouts, please join us for a special event. It's very special to me, because it's the first activism I've planned in Mississauga. I've been co-organizing it with a great activist from the Mississauga Coalition for Peace and Justice, who I met through IS.

We'll be screening "War Resisters Speak Out," a movie featuring a dozen US war resisters inteviewed by CBC radio host Andy Barrie, followed by a discussion with two people who are in the film. See below for details.

Similar events are being planned all over Canada in support of Bill C-440, the private member's bill that would allow US war resisters to stay in Canada. Opposition bills survive prorogation, and this one has the support of all three opposition parties. Obviously the bill has been stalled because of Harper's political machinations, but if passed, C-440 would give the weight of law to the two motions the House of Commons already passed in support of US war resisters - which the Harper Government ignored.

Yesterday, MP Gerard Kennedy, sponsor of Bill C-440, renewed his call for a full Parliamentary debate.
A campaign to halt the deportation of war resisters from Canada has grown from the jailing of an American army deserter who spent three years on Gabriola Island.

Toronto Liberal MP Gerard Kennedy wants Canadians to tell their MPs to stop deporting all American Iraq war resisters, until his private member's bill is debated in the House of Commons.

The bill is to allow immigrants to stay if they come here because they disagree with their government's reasons for going to war.

Bill C-440 was slated to be debated early in the next session of Parliament, but all work in the House has been pushed back by Prime Minister Harper's proroguing of Parliament.

Cliff Cornell walked away from his post with the U.S. Army and ultimately spent three years as a grocery clerk on Gabriola before his residency application was blocked and the Conservative government ordered him deported.

That deportation order came despite a vote to allow war resisters to stay in Canada, which got the support of a majority of Parliament through all three Opposition parties.

Nanaimo-Alberni MP James Lunney, a Conservative, could not be reached for comment.

There are an estimated 250 war resisters in Canada. Kennedy wants voters to send MPs the message to stop the deportation orders against them.

Cornell, who left Canada before his deportation took effect last year, returned to Fort Stewart, Ga., to face the music. He was sentenced to a year in prison for desertion.

He got an early prison release on Saturday. His sentence was reduced by a month, thanks to a letter-writing campaign spearheaded by Gabriolans who knew him from the Village Market grocery store.

Canada has a tradition of supporting war resisters who left the U.S. to avoid the draft during the Vietnam war, and Kennedy said today's situation is similar, with the U.S. employing what some consider a "poverty draft," by promising poor people with few job prospects work in the military.

Cornell, who is travelling this week to his adopted family in Mountain Home, Ark., said he was lured by a $5,000 signing bonus and a job, and the promise he would not have to go to war. Two years later news came that his 39th Artillery Regiment was about to ship out for Iraq.

A majority of Canadians opposed the Iraq war and Kennedy hopes that opposition translates into support for the fight to change the immigration law to protect people like Cornell.

"We'd like Canadians to say: 'Is this fair?' Should someone with a crisis of conscience, who turns to Canada when they're compelled to do something against their conscience, shouldn't we stop deporting these people until my bill is debated?"

"WAR RESISTERS SPEAK OUT": Film Screening and Discussion

WHEN: Tonight, Thursday, January 21, 7:00 p.m.

WHERE: Mississauga Central Library, 301 Burnhamthorpe Road West (next to Square One), Room CL-3

Co-sponsored by the War Resisters Support Campaign and the Mississauga Coalition for Peace and Justice

For more information, email me or resistersmississauga-at-gmail-dot-com (which is also me).

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