Who am I?Where am I?

23 February 2009

Courage To Resist

What do Cliff Cornell, Blake Ivey, Robin Long, Benjamin Lewis, Andre Shepard, Tony Anderson, Benjamin Lewis, Ehren Watada, Suzanne Swift, Augstin Aguayo, Jeremy Hinzman, and Brandon Hughey have in common? Who are these people? These soldiers all had the courage to resist.

During the Vietnam War between 50,000-125,000 Americans moved to Canada because they were opposed to the Vietnam War. Of these, approximately 20,000-30,000 were draft eligible men who were dodging the draft. Immigration between Canada and the United States is not unprecedented. During World War I and World War II, Americans had joined the Canadian armed forces before the United States entered each war. Furthermore, approximately 30,000 Canadians joined the US military during the Vietnam War. The two countries have a history of exchanging citizens...both hawks and doves...during times of strife.

Dating back to slavery in the 1800s, Canada has provided a refuge for those Americans who conscientiously opposed the United States government and wanted to leave. Abolitionists and runaway slaves alike moved to Canada before the United States abolished slavery. The "underground railroad" for runaway slaves often terminated in Canada.

After George W. Bush was re-elected in 2004, the Canadian immigration, the Canadian government's Department of Citizenship and Immigration website received over 115,000 hits...or six times the daily traffic. Americans were interested in moving North again. And some did! The individuals above made the choice to move to Canada. There were two interesting things about their decision: they sough refugee status and their occupation was a soldier.

The current war in Iraq is not different from many wars in American history. Like all wars in American history, a certain element of the population has opposed the US involvement in whatever claflagration the country is currently embroiled. Many colonists wanted to remain part of England. Lincoln had opposition to the Civil War whilst many Americans opposed World War I and to a lesser extent World War II. Likewise, the war in Iraq had many dissenters. While many soldiers oppose the war in Iraq, these soldiers have grudgingly deployed and engaged in combat within Iraq. The individuals mentioned above have chosen another alternative. They have gone away without official leave (AWOL) from the military and fled to Canada. In other words, they have deserted.

Since the United States military became an all-voluntary force following the Vietnam War, the rate of desertion has been slightly less than 1%. This contrasts with the 3.4% desertion rate in 1971 towards the end of the Vietnam War. The American military does treat desertion as a foofaraw. Desertion is a crime in military law and is punishable with a jail sentence and a dishonorable discharge. The American servicemen and women who have fled to Canada face this punishment if they return to the United States.

Former Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau once declared, “[War resisters] have my complete sympathy, and indeed our political approach has been to give them access to Canada. Canada should be a refuge from militarism.” Sadly, this is not the case in 2009. Many American servicemen who have fled to Canada seeking refuge from an unjust war are now being turned over to the American government. This is being done despite the fact that a plurality of Canadians are opposed to the Iraq war.

Furthermore, the House of Commons has passed a resolution that allows for war resisters to apply for permanent Canadian residence. The truth of the matter is that Americans who has sought refuge in Canada are being turned away and returned to the USA. This amounts to Canadians, and their government, viewing these men and women as criminals who merit the prison sentence. I can understand the re-foulement of these soldiers if they were common criminals. Afterall, who wants criminals in their country who are not from that country. But the fact is that these men and women are criminals only because of their beliefs and these "criminal" beliefs are shared by a majority of Canadians. Thus, the deportation of these ex-soldiers is akin to the United States turning away Jewish refugees on the eve of World War II and sending them back to Germany where they faced the ghoulish Nazi regime.

This was not considered justice then and it should not be considered justice now. Here is how you can help. Visit http://www.couragetoresist.org/. Check out their links. Write a letter to the Canadian government asking them to stop deporting asylum seeking ex-US soldiers. Sign their on-line petition. You can also send personalized letters to Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and/or the Minister of Citizenship & Immigration Diane Finley. There contact details are listed below.

Like Mohatma Gandhi famously said: "You must be the change you wish to see in the world."


Nomadic Richard

Send personalized appeals to:

Prime Minister Stephen Harper
80 Wellington Street
Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0A2
Fax: 613-941-6900

Mr. Harper can also be e-mailed at: pm@pm.gc.ca

Minister of Citizenship & Immigration Diane Finley
Citizenship & Immigration Canada
Ottawa, Ontario K1A 1L1,

Minister Finley can be e-mailed at: minister@cic.gc.ca

The following were used as resources for this article.


ckay said...

mmmmhhh. Yeah...and didn't Mohatma Gandhi also say "An eye for an eye will make the world blind?"

Speaks Beliefs said...

Those with the "Courage to Resist" are paying for the relationship of our past idiot-n-chief with our neighbors to the north. Why is this a crime? I know he or cheney had something to do with this shift in policy.

Muhammad Ali Remix: "I ain't got no quarrel with the Sunni or Shia ... No Sunni or Shia ever called me Ni@#%r."