Win for US War Resisters
Parliament has voted twice to let Iraq war resisters from the United States stay in Canada. Now the Federal Court of Appeal has added its voice to the debate.
On Tuesday, the court ruled that Jeremy Hinzman, an asylum-seeking American paratrooper and conscientious objector, should have another chance at remaining in Toronto, where he has settled with his wife, son and baby daughter. The court found that an immigration officer’s 2008 decision to deny Hinzman’s application for permanent residence in Canada was “unreasonable” and “significantly flawed” because it didn’t take into account his pacifist religious beliefs.
The latest decision gives Hinzman and his family new hope, but it shouldn’t have come to this. And it wouldn’t have, but for the Harper government’s ideological stand that those who refuse U.S. war duty are bogus refugee claimants. “Our government remains convinced that U.S. military deserters are not genuine refugees and do not fall under internationally accepted definitions of people in need of protection,” said a statement issued Wednesday by the government.
The government earlier dismissed Parliament’s two motions to grant war resisters permanent resident status as “non-binding.” So two other resisters were subsequently deported and sentenced to U.S. jail time on charges of desertion.
Hinzman should avoid that fate. The Georgia-born soldier deserted in 2004 after Washington rejected his application for conscientious objector status. He fled to Canada in the belief we would welcome him, as we did those who avoided duty in Vietnam in the 1960s and 1970s.
A new private member’s bill put forward by Liberal MP Gerard Kennedy comes up for a vote in September. It would allow foreign military deserters to stay if their action is based on “sincere moral, political or religious objection.” The bill deserves support.
© 2010 The Toronto Star