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U.S. resisters continue fight for Canada asylum

Published Dec 6, 2007 8:52 PM

From 1965 to 1973, while the U.S. government was engaged in a brutal war against the people of Vietnam, more than 50,000 draft-age men from the U.S. fled to Canada, refusing to participate in what they considered an immoral war.

Then, Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau said: “Those who make the conscientious judgment that they must not participate in this war ... have my complete sympathy, and indeed our political approach has been to give them access to Canada. Canada should be a refuge from militarism.”

Today, soldiers refusing to fight in another U.S. war for empire face much greater challenges. Two weeks ago, the Supreme Court of Canada declined to hear appeals from U.S. war resisters Jeremy Hinzman and Brandon Hughey seeking refuge in Canada. On Nov. 15, the War Resisters Support Campaign (www.resisters.ca) organized rallies across Canada in support of the right of U.S. war resisters to receive political asylum in Canada, a right supported by 65 percent of Canadians.

Hinzman and Hughey were among the first Iraq War resisters to arrive in Canada in 2004. They applied for political refugee status on the basis that the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq is illegal under both U.S. and international law.

Hinzman said: “They said there were weapons of mass destruction. They haven’t found any. They said Iraq was linked to international terrorist organizations. There haven’t been any links. This was a criminal war. Any act of violence in an unjustified conflict is an atrocity.”

Hinzman and Hughey claimed that according to the United Nations convention, they should not be prosecuted for refusing to fight in an illegal conflict. Canada’s Immigration Review Board and the Canadian courts, however, denied a hearing on these facts.

Gerry Condon, a Vietnam-era resister who lived in Canada for three years, now works with Project Safe Haven (www.soldiersayno.blogspot.com ). Condon said, “While the refusal of the Supreme Court of Canada to hear the appeals is very disappointing, the struggle for sanctuary in Canada is being stepped up. All along, we have known that a political solution was ultimately what would be needed. While the sanctuary campaign ramps up in Canada, we in the U.S. can seize this moment to become much more supportive.”

On Dec. 6, Canada’s Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration will be holding hearings on the issue of allowing U.S. war resisters to stay in Canada.

The War Resisters Support Campaign is asking supporters in the U.S. to join the appeal campaign launched by Courage to Resist in support of asylum for resisters, located online at www.couragetoresist.org. For more information, go to www.resisters.ca.