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Canada deports war resisters

Campaign launched for sanctuary

Published Jan 31, 2009 7:02 AM

Iraq war resisters Cliff Cornell and Chris Teske were deported from Canada last week. Teske crossed the British Columbia-Washington state border unassisted on Jan. 22 at an undisclosed location. Cornell planned to do the same on Jan. 23.

The two resisters now join thousands of their fellow resisters in the U.S. who live a clandestine existence while deciding whether to turn themselves in.

Cliff Cornell and Chris Teske

Kimberly Rivera was luckier: she got a stay of the order that she leave on Jan. 27. Rivera served in Iraq in 2006. Her experience in Iraq convinced her that the war was immoral and that she could not participate in it, and in 2007 she refused redeployment and became the first woman to publicly seek refuge in Canada as a U.S. Iraq war resister. She now lives in Toronto with her spouse Mario, her 6-year-old son Christian, her 4-year-old daughter Rebecca and her newborn daughter Katie.

The government of Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper is planning more deportations. Army Sgt. Patrick Hart, his spouse Jill and their son have been ordered to leave Jan. 29. Hart is a New York native who served nine years in the Army until he was stationed in Kuwait during 2004. In 2005, Hart went absent without leave rather than be deployed to Iraq. After arriving in Canada he declared, “If you want to support the troops, bring them home.”

Dean Walcott was ordered to leave Jan. 30. A Marine from Connecticut, Walcott went AWOL in 2007 following an Iraq deployment and has lived in Canada since. He “was with the military police and all we ever did was run convoys around a very little part of Iraq.” (couragetoresist.org)

The struggle in Canada to defend war resisters has been nonstop since last spring. There is a strong War Resister Support Campaign in Canada, which unifies the efforts of labor and religious organizations, students and the peace movement. This coalition sparked a campaign last year that won a parliamentary resolution demanding the government let the war resisters stay. The resolution won the support of all three major opposition parties.

These parties are now united in an urgent effort to bring down the government. Parliament reopened this week after a six-week holiday recess, and the future of the Harper government is at the top of the agenda.

Lawyers for the WRSC have been working to reverse or delay the deportation orders. Federal judges in eastern Canada have tended to make rulings in their favor, but it has gone the other way in the more reactionary western provinces where Harper has greater support.

Sanctuary campaign needed

These “removal orders” mark a turning point for war resisters in Canada. Prior to now, Robin Long was the only war resister deported from Canada since the Vietnam War. He was convicted by an Army court-martial upon his forced return, sentenced to 15 months confinement and is currently held in a brig at Miramar, just north of San Diego, Calif.

Jeff Paterson, director of the Oakland, Calif.,-based Courage to Resist, told Workers World his organization will be “working with these resisters and our allies nationwide to create communities of support for these courageous individuals and to make U.S.-based civilian legal defense available.”

Gerry Condon of Project Safe Haven told Workers World: “We must prepare to defend war resisters who are deported and court-martialed. We need to build communities of sanctuary in the U.S. And we need to demand that President Obama grant amnesty to all war resisters.”