(Guest post by frequent CC commenter Matt Bin who, unlike so many of Canada's whiny Blogging Tories, can comment on topics military while actually knowing something about them. Enjoy.)
This week, the Refugee Board ruled that American war resister and Iraq veteran Corey Glass was not eligible for refugee status. He was ordered to leave Canada within 14 days, or face deportment.
Corey signed up with the National Guard in 2002 as a 20-year-old, hoping to do humanitarian work. In his own words:
When I joined the National Guard, they told me the only way I would be in combat was if there were troops occupying the United States. I signed up to defend people and do humanitarian work filling sandbags if there was a hurricane. ... I should have been in New Orleans, not Iraq.
Yet he was deployed to Iraq in 2005, and when on leave later that year, he attempted to quit the military; when that was unsuccessful, he fled to Canada and applied for refugee status. Since then, the Canadian War Resisters Support Campaign has been working to keep him, and about 100 other known resisters, here in Canada.
His application was denied because the board considering his case did not think he would face severe consequences if he returned to the US. Yet those consequences are -- almost certainly -- time in a military prison and a dishonorable discharge, which is essentially a criminal record. They will rob him of his freedom, and of his livelihood for the rest of his life.
But there is hope for Glass -- and for Canada. The Parliamentary Citizenship and Immigration Committee recently passed a motion to allow American war resisters to stay in Canada. However, that motion has not yet been debated in parliament. At this point, the NDP and Bloc are fully in support of the motion, and the CPC is, surprise, against it. The Liberals... well, again to no one's surprise, they haven't yet decided whether to support the motion or not.
So here's a clear-cut chance to demand that Dion and his party show some backbone, stand up to the CPC, and support the motion to make Canada again a safe haven from militarism.
I was a soldier myself. I have friends who are veterans of virtually every foreign mission our military has participated in since 1990. I think that one of the crowning achievements of the Chretien government was to keep us out of the Iraq quagmire -- when there was plenty of pressure on him to send us there (not least of which from Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition, who, at the time, actually went around opposing the government, if you can believe). If we refused to send our own men and women there, how can we not protect other countries' men and women from the same fate?
It's time to help ensure that Canada remains not only a refuge from militarism, but a bastion against militarism. We can regain the moral standing we held throughout the Vietnam War by refusing to send Glass and all the other resisters back to the USA to punishment and, even worse, a forced redeployment to Iraq. We can show that Canada is strong enough to refuse to hold the bully's coat, strong enough to decide our national agenda for ourselves, strong enough to take in these victims of the US empire-building scheme.
We desperately need the Liberals to take a stand for us, and for all Canadians. A majority of Canadians (64% of Ontarians, in a recent poll) want Canada to keep the resisters safe. The Liberals are the swing party, and their support for the resisters will ensure that these brave men and women will not be forced to return to the US military, and possibly to Iraq. To get the Liberals' support, we need to make sure they know that it's politically safe for them to do so.
How can we, a few private citizens, do this?
It's simple, and will take less than two minutes of your time (literally -- I timed it myself).
Call the office Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion (613.996.6740 or 613.996.5789). You'll get to talk to a staffer. Tell them you want Mr Dion:
- to support the motion to allow Iraq War resisters to remain in Canada,
- to oppose the deportation of people of conscience who have resisted an illegal war, and
- to support the will of the Canadian people, not the U.S.'s war agenda.
That's it. They will note your comments and thank you, and you can hang up.
While you're at it, why not give Stephen Harper's office a call (at 613.992.4211) as well? He should know that he is acting against the will of his citizens.
Please, call them and let them know where you stand on this immensely important issue.