war resister hinzman decision gives "new hope, but it shouldn't have come to this"

There's an excellent editorial today in the Toronto Star in support of US war resisters in Canada. Short letters of support can be sent to lettertoed@thestar.ca.

Below the editorial, an article summarizing the situation with my own responses to the Tory lies.
Win for war resisters

Parliament has voted twice to let Iraq war resisters from the United States stay in Canada. Now the Federal Court of Appeal has added its voice to the debate.

On Tuesday, the court ruled that Jeremy Hinzman, an asylum-seeking American paratrooper and conscientious objector, should have another chance at remaining in Toronto, where he has settled with his wife, son and baby daughter. The court found that an immigration officer’s 2008 decision to deny Hinzman’s application for permanent residence in Canada was “unreasonable” and “significantly flawed” because it didn’t take into account his pacifist religious beliefs.

The latest decision gives Hinzman and his family new hope, but it shouldn’t have come to this. And it wouldn’t have, but for the Harper government’s ideological stand that those who refuse U.S. war duty are bogus refugee claimants. “Our government remains convinced that U.S. military deserters are not genuine refugees and do not fall under internationally accepted definitions of people in need of protection,” said a statement issued Wednesday by the government.

The government earlier dismissed Parliament’s two motions to grant war resisters permanent resident status as “non-binding.” So two other resisters were subsequently deported and sentenced to U.S. jail time on charges of desertion.

Hinzman should avoid that fate. The Georgia-born soldier deserted in 2004 after Washington rejected his application for conscientious objector status. He fled to Canada in the belief we would welcome him, as we did those who avoided duty in Vietnam in the 1960s and 1970s.

A new private member’s bill put forward by Liberal MP Gerard Kennedy comes up for a vote in September. It would allow foreign military deserters to stay if their action is based on “sincere moral, political or religious objection.” The bill deserves support.

This story ran yesterday. My responses to the lame Conservative arguments are in brackets and italics.
Don’t turn back on war resisters, critics tell Tories

July 07, 2010
Richard J. Brennan

OTTAWA—The Conservative government is being urged to put aside its opposition to U.S. war resisters staying in Canada in view of a court finding that their beliefs merit special consideration.

The Federal Court of Appeal ruled unanimously this week that a Canadian immigration official failed to consider the hardships facing high-profile American deserter Jeremy Hinzman when she denied him permanent residence in Canada.

The June 2009 rejection of Hinzman’s permanent residence application was “significantly flawed” because the officer did not take into consideration Hinzman’s “strong moral and religious beliefs” against participation in war.

“It is more confirmation there is a legitimate principle at stake here with folks who refuse to serve in the war in Iraq, especially given it is also a war that Canada has refused to participate in … so I hope the Conservatives will take this Federal Court decision to heart and finally move on a special program that would recognize conscientious objectors,” NDP MP Bill Siksay told the Toronto Star Wednesday.

The Conservative government does not believe war resisters are legitimate refugees.

“Our government remains convinced that U.S. military deserters are not genuine refugees and do not fall under internationally accepted definitions of people in need of protection,” Celyeste Power, a spokesperson for Immigration Minister Jason Kenney, stated in an email. [L note: many refugee experts believe the US war resisters do qualify for refugee status. However, Bill C-440 would remove war resisters from the refugee claims system and give them the ability to apply for permanent resident status without being deemed refugees. Canada has made similar provisions for various groups of immigrants in the past.]

Power also noted the arms-length Immigration and Refugee Board has rejected every refugee claim from a U.S. war resister that it has heard. [L note: Immigration Minister Jason Kenney has interfered in this supposedly arms-length process, by publicly denigrating the war resisters and prejudicing their cases. The federal court has acknowledged this, and ordered a new IRB hearing for two war resisters, and a new Humanitarian and Compassionate application for others.]

“Also, desertion is a crime in Canada punishable by up to life imprisonment. Why would we treat Canadian deserters like criminals but U.S. deserters like heroes? [L note: because Canadian forces volunteer, and because in reality, if a Canadian soldier refuses to serve in Afghanistan, he is quietly transferred to a different unit.] Additionally, our government finds it very hard to believe that Barack Obama is persecuting U.S. citizens,” she stated. [L note: Barack Obama has nothing to do with this. War resisters are court martialed (that is, tried by their accusers), and sentenced to lengthy incarcerations, no matter who is President. In addition, they are given dishonourable discharges, which impair their opportunities for the rest of their lives. Under US military "justice," war resisters who speak out against the Iraq War receive harsher sentences than violent criminals, as the military tries to deter other soldiers from also speaking out.]

The House of Commons has adopted two motions calling on the government to stop deportation proceedings against war resisters and allow them to stay in Canada as permanent residents.

The motions are in keeping with Canadian public opinion as illustrated by an Angus Reid poll in June 2008 that showed 64 per cent of Canadians want the government to allow war resisters to become permanent residents.

Liberal MP Gerard Kennedy has put a private member’s bill before the Commons that would allow conscientious objectors to be considered for permanent residence status on humanitarian grounds, but not automatically accepted.

“The government has said terrible things about the people who are trying to stay. They have called them rapists and murderers and so on and are alleging my bill would allow them stay. I think that shows a certain level of desperateness but it also shows a government prepared to ignore both the will of Parliament … and prevailing public opinion,” Kennedy said.

Alykhan Velshi, Kenney’s director of communications, told National Post columnist John Ivison in October 2009 that “if this Liberal bill passes, our fear is that we won’t be able to stop rapists, murderers, and other violent foreign criminals from immigrating to Canada if they happen to be military deserters.” [L note: bullshit! All prospective Canadian immigrants are screened for criminal records. Violent criminals are inadmissible to Canada, period. This bill would not change any of those provisions.]

War Resisters Support Campaign has estimated there are approximately 200 war resisters living in Canada and at least 20 have applied to stay to avoid having to go back to the U.S., where they face prison time.

Alyssa Manning, legal counsel for Hinzman and many others, said her client’s humanitarian and compassionate grounds application now goes back to an immigration officer for consideration “taking into account the direction of the court of appeal and its decision.”

Hinzman, of Rapid City, S.D. and a former U.S. Army specialist from the 82nd Airborne Division in Fort Bragg, N.C., has been in Canada since 2004. He faces deportation if his application is denied.

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