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Significant win for US Iraq War resisters in Canada
By Courage to Resist
On December 6, the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration of the House of Commons in Ottawa, Canada adopted a motion that was a critical victory for U.S. Iraq War resisters seeking sanctuary. Courage to Resist organizers Lori Hurlebaus and Jeff Paterson traveled to Ottawa for this hearing, along with supporters and resisters from across Canada, and have contributed to this report. In collaboration with the Toronto, Canada-based War Resisters Support Campaign (WRSC), Courage to Resist is calling for U.S.-Canada consulate delegations, vigils, and actions on January 24-25 to build momentum in the wake of this important first victory.
After hearing the testimony of former U.S. Army sergeant Phillip McDowell, along with representatives of the Mennonites and Quakers, the Citizenship and Immigration Committee voted 7 to 4 to recommend that the Canadian government immediately implement a program to allow Iraq War resisters (and resisters of any war not sanctioned by the United Nations) and their families to stay in Canada. The motion also calls for an immediate halt to deportation proceedings in these cases. The win was possible because the two Liberal Party members on the committee voted in favor — something that was far from guaranteed going into the hearing.
Although no war resister has yet to be deported from Canada, last month the Supreme Court of Canada shut the door on any possible legal solution for sanctuary for resisters. This resolution comes at a time when deportation is becoming a real possibility for some of the resisters. It's a hopeful first step towards a political solution.
The resolution passed by the committee, which must now be taken up by the full House of Commons when it returns from winter break in early February, reads:
The Committee recommends that the government immediately implement a program to allow conscientious objectors and their immediate family members (partners and dependents), who have refused or left military service related to a war not sanctioned by the United Nations and do not have a criminal record, to apply for permanent resident status and remain in Canada; and that the government should immediately cease any removal or deportation actions that may have already commenced against such individuals.
Following the committee hearing, supporters gathered in MP Olivia Chow’s office in the West Block of Parliament to celebrate. WRSC organizer Michelle Robidoux explained, “I want to make sure that nobody leaves thinking that this is won. It’s very important that we understand that now the work begins .… This does not mean that people can stay immediately. It means that there is a political opening here — it’s a significant political opening.”
Lee Zaslofsky, also of WRSC outlined the situation as such, “What we need is for the Liberal Party as a whole to take a stance on this. Together (the three parties) have a majority, and if they act together they can put something through the House of Commons.” Lee added, "The motion does not bind the Government. Processes like PRRA and refugee claims continue as before. But this vote is a major step in moving towards our goal of a provision that would allow the war resisters to settle in Canada."
Resisters gather after committee hearing win in Canada Parliament 12/6/07. From left to right: Jamine Aponte and her partner resister Phil McDowell, Dale Landry (back), Jesse Morriss, Kimberly Rivera (middle front), Chuck Wiley, Jeremy Hinzman, Ryan Johnson and wife Jen. Photo: Lori Hurlebaus for Courage to Resist
U.S.-Canada Days of Action set for January 25-26
The War Resisters Support Campaign (Canada) has called for a Canada-wide mobilization on Saturday, January 26th to ensure that deportation proceedings against U.S. war resisters cease immediately, and that a provision be enacted by Parliament in order to allow resisters to stay. January 26th is the forth anniversary of US war resister Jeremy Hinzman applying for political refugee status in Canada.
In the United States, supporters are encouraged to organize delegations of concerned community members to visit local Canadian Consulates across the country on Friday, January 25. Additionally, supporters are urged to hold vigils or other public events that day, or the following day Saturday, January 26 in support of war resisters. More information and January 25-26 organizing tools coming soon — but start making plans for events in your area!
Canadian consulate contact information and locations: