Posts Tagged ‘War Resisters’

by Peace Alliance Winnipeg

During the Vietnam war, tens of thousands of American conscientious objectors sought refuge in Canada to avoid taking part in a war they could not, in conscience, support. While the Canadian government was slow to respond in a positive way, under persistent pressure from peace, church and labour activists, they were eventually permitted to obtain immigrant status. Many remain in Canada to this day as valued members of our communities.

Fast forward 40 years – many US soldiers have sought refuge here  rather than fight in the Iraq war, a war widely recognized as a crime against humanity. Rather than be complicit in war crimes they left their homes, their families and communities and sought refuge in Canada.

Their pleas for refugee status have been thwarted at every turn by the Harper Government. In defiance of two Parliamentary resolutions calling on the federal government to allow war resisters to stay in Canada, the Harper Government has continued to smear American war resisters as criminals. Minister of Citizenship and Immigration Jason Kenney has publicly labelled them as “bogus refugee claimants.” In July 2010, he issued a bulletin to all Immigration Officers requiring them to red-flag applications that involve US war resisters, labeling them as “criminally inadmissible.”

In recent news, the Harper government ordered U.S. Iraq war resister Kimberly Rivera, her husband Mario and their four young children deported to the United States. Kimberly served in Iraq in 2006, and sought refuge in Canada in 2007 after making the decision that she could no longer participate in the Iraq War. She was the first female US Iraq War resister to come to Canada. Kimberly and her family live in Toronto.

If deported, she faces harsh punishment. War resisters Robin Long and Clifford Cornell, two Iraq war resisters deported by the Harper government, were court-martialed and sentenced to 15 months and 12 months respectively for speaking out against the Iraq War.

Canadian support for American war resisters is widespread. We must redouble our efforts to make the Harper government listen.

Peace Alliance Winnipeg has sent a $300 donation to cover Kimberly Rivera’s legal costs. We have written to each Manitoba MP and we will be taking our message to the Winnipeg Take Canada Back demonstration on September 17th. Here are some things you can do:

1. Write, email, fax and or call your MP. If you wish, you can use or adapt the letter sent by Peace Alliance Winnipeg (below, at the end of this message) or you may wish to adapt the letter being used by the War Resisters Support Campaign.  To get their contact information, follow the links below:

(More MP contact information can be found here.)
2. Make a financial contribution to help with Kimberly Rivera’s legal expenses. You can make a donation online, here. To donate by cheque, make it payable to War Resisters Support Campaign and send to:

War Resisters Support Campaign
Box 23
427 Bloor Street West
Toronto, ON M5S 1X7
Canada

3. Write, email, phone or fax Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism Jason Kenney and ask him to let Iraq War resister Kimberly Rivera and her family stay in Canada. You can use thisonline letter, or send your own message to:

325 East Block, House of Commons, Ottawa, ON K1A 0A6
Phone: 613-954-1064 Fax: 613-957.2688
Email: jason.kenney@parl.gc.ca, minister@cic.gc.ca

4. Join the Peace Alliance Winnipeg contingent at the Winnipeg Take Canada Back Demonstration on September 17th, 5:00 p.m., at the Manitoba Legislature. More information on this national demonstration, which coincides with the opening of Parliament, can be found here.

If Kimberly and her family are to be allowed to remain in Canada, we need to act now. Please share this message widely, and take action today.


LETTER SENT TO MANITOBA MPs FROM PEACE ALLIANCE WINNIPEG

September 13, 2012

Dear Member of Parliament for Manitoba

Re: Deportation of Kimberly Rivera , American Iraqi war resister

On behalf of the Peace Alliance Winnipeg I ask for your immediate attention and support on an urgent matter regarding the imminent deportation of Kimberly Rivera, a young American war resister, woman and mother. Her appeal to remain in Canada on humanitarian grounds has been denied by the Federal government and deportation is scheduled for as early as September 20, 2012.

Kimberly has sought refuge in Canada on moral grounds, motivated by her conscience, values, and political opposition to the American military action in Iraq. Many thousands of Canadians support her and view her decision and actions as a heroic matter of conscience.

On being forced to return to he US she will face two to five years of imprisonment made all the more harsh by her separation from her young children.

There is nothing to be gained from this inhumane decision and much will be lost. Kimberly losses her freedom and her ability to parent her children; her children lose precious time with their mother; the American military gains nothing but retribution and, as Canadians, we also lose.

This is a serious and symbolic issue for us a nation. If we fail to reverse this deportation decision, and all others like it, Canada loses a significant degree of independence in determining the value of individual conscience particularly as it concerns the matter of conscientious objection. The deportation of war resisters sends the message that Canada does not value those who refuse to fight in war. It further erodes our standing in the world as peace keepers and a middle power capable of being an honest broker on the world stage.

Most troubling we will have failed our long held national values of defending legitimate moral opposition, defending the right to conscience and protecting political refugees from certain prosecution. Our once highly held principle of humanitarian consideration for refugees will be irrevocably threatened along with our national identity as a compassionate and tolerant country.

This is a costly and grave matter for Kimberly and her family and for us as Canadians. It is erroneously being framed as a criminal matter. Deportation of Kimberly and others like her will have far reaching, long term destructive consequences for us all. The real crime is a moral one in allowing this deportation to proceed unchallenged.

In June 2008 and March 2009 Parliament passed resolutions calling for a halt to the deportations of war resisters and allowing them to stay in Canada as permanent residents. Please use your position and voice as a parliamentarian to immediately stop the deportation of Kimberly Rivera.

Glenn Michalchuk
Chair, Peace Alliance Winnipeg

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Joshua Key is an American Iraq War veteran who sought refuge in Canada because of his war experiences. Author of “The Deserter’s Tale,” Joshua told the story of his recruitment into the U.S. Army, the war crimes he witnessed in Iraq and his subsequent flight to Canada to an audience at McNally Robinson Booksellers in Winnipeg on Jan. 17, 2011.

Like so many young people, Joshua joined the army to escape a life of poverty and support his family. The Army promised he would remain in the US and learn to build bridges, but the ink on his contract was barely dry when he learned he would be deployed to Iraq to blow them up. Basic training turned him into a killing machine, but the brutalities of war transformed him into a deserter, a refugee and a peace activist.

Joshua speaks with authority, simplicity, warmth and honesty. He may have been traumatized by what he has seen and done, but he has not lost his courage or his humanity. He and the many others who have said “no” to the American war machine deserve our admiration and need our support.

Contact:

War Resisters Support Campaign

Keep Resisters in Canada Campaign Alberta-Saskatchewan-Manitoba

It’s Let Them Stay Week in Canada — a week of activities dedicated to keeping American war resisters in Canada. So I did what any red-blooded Canadian peacenik does at this time of the year – I stood around outside an MP’s office  in -25C temperatures with a similarly minded posse of peacenikles. This time it was the Steinbach, Manitoba office of Vic Toews – our Minister of Public Safety – a man who long ago abandoned the pacifist principles of his Mennonite faith while still managing to be twice re-elected in this mega-Mennonite town.

Here is my video report.

Michael Ignatieff and Co. can’t get enough criticism for their desertion of Bill  C-440 to suit me. But let’s not deny the  Tories their fair share of the shame. Against the will of most Canadians, the Tories have conducted a campaign of persecution against American war resisters since coming to power. In their slavish admiration of American imperialism, they ignore important aspects of international law. In their eagerness to crawl into bed with war criminals, they are complicit in some of the most horrendous crimes against humanity of this century.

The Tories spare no effort to prevent war resisters from exercising their right to conscientious objection. Wednesday’s defeat of Bill C-440, to which they unanimously voted “nay” is just the most recent example. Because the War Resisters Support Campaign web site is replete with examples of the Tory pogrom against conscientious objectors, I won’t deal with that here.

Instead, I want to address the standard Tory refrain that war resisters are “cowards” or “deserters” who should shut up, stay in the army and keep killing or rot in an American prison.

Nazis, Nuremberg and Numb Tory Memories

Despite their “Conservative” label, the Tories have forgotten important aspects of our shared history, chief among them the Second World War and the trials of Nazi war criminals at Nuremberg in 1945 and 1946. In 1950, the UN International Law Commission codified the legal principles that emerged during these trials. The Tories would do well to acquaint themselves with the Nuremberg Principles because they are key to understanding why American war resisters should be granted sanctuary in Canada.

Principle VI states,

“The crimes hereinafter set out are punishable as crimes under international law:

(a) Crimes against peace:
(i) Planning, preparation, initiation or waging of a war of aggression or a war in violation of international treaties, agreements or assurances;
(ii) Participation in a common plan or conspiracy for the accomplishment of any of the acts mentioned under (i).

(b) War crimes: Violations of the laws or customs of war which include, but are not limited to, murder, ill-treatment or deportation of slave labor or for any other purpose of the civilian population of or in occupied territory; murder or ill-treatment of prisoners of war or persons on the Seas, killing of hostages, plunder of public or private property, wanton destruction of cities, towns, or villages, or devastation not justified by military necessity.

(c) Crimes against humanity: Murder, extermination, enslavement, deportation and other inhumane acts done against any civilian population, or persecutions on political, racial, or religious grounds, when such acts are done or such persecutions are carried on in execution of or in connection with any crime against peace or any war crime.”

A “war of aggression” is a military conflict waged without the justification of self-defense or the sanction of the United Nations. Under the Nuremberg Principles, a war of aggression is a “crime against peace.” The invasion of Iraq, perpetrated by the U.S. and its allies under the guise of protecting the world against non-existent weapons of mass destruction meets the definition of a “crime against peace.”

I have italicized those portions which apply to this invasion, a crime of overwhelming proportions which resulted in the destruction of a nation, the displacement of almost four million people and the death of an estimated 1.3 million. War resisters are refusing to participate in this crime, and who can blame them?

What of the Tory argument that war resisters signed a contract with the U.S. military and therefore should honour their contract (i.e., kill Iraqis in a “crime against peace”)?

Nuremberg Principle 4 provides some guidance. It states: “The fact that a person acted pursuant to order of his Government or of a superior does not relieve him from responsibility under international law, provided a moral choice was in fact possible to him”.

In other words, to say your were “just following orders” is no defense. War resisters understand this. They have made a conscientious decision to refuse to participate in this massive crime against humanity. War resisters embody the Nuremberg Principles; most Canadians recognize this and welcome them to our country.

Canada’s obligation to protect refugees

Canada is a signatory to, and therefore legally required to follow, the 1951 UN Refugee Convention and 1967 Protocol. Article 33 says:

“No Contracting State shall expel or return (‘refouler’) a refugee in any manner whatsoever to the frontiers of territories where his life or freedom would be threatened on account of his race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular  social group or political opinion.”

If war resisters are not “political refugees” I don’t know who is. There is no question that they face imprisonment if returned to the U.S. because a number of them have been deported and subsequently jailed. It is clear that Canada is in violation of the UN Refugee Convention.

What now?

Stephen Harper and the Conservative Party are committed to deporting every American war resister they can find, regardless of Canadian public opinion or international law. Harper was an early hawk on Iraq, and there is no reason to believe he has modified his position.

Short of replacing them in the next election, we will not resolve this issue satisfactorily.

The situation is further complicated by the actions of Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff and a small gang of liberal MPs who absented themselves from Wednesday’s House of Commons vote on Bill C-440, thereby dooming it to defeat (143-136). I’m not a Liberal, but I sincerely hope the 57 Liberal MPs who voted for C-440 rouse their party to get rid of him. For more than a few reasons, he’s a liability Liberals can no longer afford.

In the near term, the best we can manage is to provide moral and material support to the War Resisters Support Campaign. That’s plenty enough to keep us busy.