After a 22-month battle to earn a home in Toronto, a former American soldier was told yesterday he will become the first Iraq War resister to be deported from Canadian soil after his application to stay in the country was rejected.
A dejected Corey Glass, 25, stared blankly at the floor of a tiny room in Trinity-St. Paul's United Church as members of the War Resisters Support Campaign informed media and other U.S. war resisters of his failed bid to remain in the country and the consequences he now faces.
"He's supposed to leave on his own by June 12," said the group's co-ordinator, Lee Zaslofsky, who came to Canada after fleeing enlistment in the American military during the Vietnam War. "After that, he's subject to deportation."
The rejection, Zaslofsky said, was based on a failed pre-removal risk assessment by Citizenship and Immigration Canada, which found that, if removed from the country, Glass would not be at immediate risk of death, torture, or cruel or unusual treatment or punishment.
"They didn't think that he would face that severe a consequence if he went back," Zaslofsky said.
The potential consequence is unclear; past deserters who have returned to the U.S. have received punishments ranging from a dishonourable discharge to jail time in a military prison.
"I guess it means jail time - possibly," said Glass. "They don't really tell me."
This first rejection could be a chilling sign of things to come for at least nine other war resisters who have requested a pre-removal risk assessment, Zaslofsky said, and could shut the door to other war resisters' attempts to find a home in Canada. "We think that Corey's case may be similar to some of the others," said Zaslofsky, whose group is in touch with about 50 of the estimated 100-plus war resisters currently residing in Canada.
"We think that each case is being assessed individually and they are all different from each other, but certainly this is not a good sign."
An Indiana native, Glass's tenure with the military began in 2002 when he joined the National Guard to complete "humanitarian work" within the United States, he said. At that time, he had no idea he would end up fighting on foreign shores.
"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," he said. "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."
When he was deployed to Iraq in 2005, Glass said he tried to quit the military and was returned home on a leave later that same year.
He then went AWOL for eight months before defecting to Toronto in August 2006. He has since been working as a funeral director at a Toronto funeral home.
Glass's deportation order, Zaslofsky said, contradicts a motion passed last December by the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration, which called on the Canadian government to allow conscientious war resisters to remain in the country without the threat of deportation.
That motion has not yet been passed by Parliament.
© 2008 The Toronto Star