Last week's vote to allow U.S. Iraq war resisters to stay here exposed a fundamental flaw in Canadian democracy. A majority of MPs voted in favour of allowing American conscientious objectors to seek asylum in Canada, but the governing Conservatives have the freedom to ignore this vote.
Ostensibly to address Canada's "democratic deficit," the Conservatives campaigned on the issue of democratic reform with the issue of an elected Senate near the forefront of their platform. But if democratic reform is a priority, why not start with respecting a majority vote in Parliament?
Do Prime Minister Stephen Harper and the entire Conservative Party care about democracy enough to practise it?
The above is a letter ("Harbouring war resisters triggers war of words") to to the Vancouver Sun. So there's a citizen who grasps the fact which puts Brown far ahead of the 'journalists' on the editorial board of the Standard Freeholder who are (a) idiots, (b) liars and (c) in need of finding another profession. Of NDP MP Olivia Chow, they write (in "No special rules for deserters"), "She reminds us that during the Vietnam War the government was pressured into allowing American war resisters (a. k. a. draft dodgers) to take refuge in Canada. But today we aren't talking about draft dodgers and civilian war resisters. We're talking about volunteers who willing took an oath to serve their country, knowing they could be sent to Iraq or Afghanistan."
We went over this most recently yesterday. Learn your facts or accept the fact that the entire world laughs at you. Anyone with even half a brain is laughing at the Standard Freeholder today. During Vietnam, Canada provided asylum to "draft dodgers" and "deserters." The draft wasn't the issue, the illegal war was. A deserter didn't have to swear or affirm that a draft led to military service. No one cared. You went to Canada for asylum, you received it.
If the informed population of the entire world isn't laughing at the Standard Freedholder today, it's only because they're aiming some of the laughter at Peter Worthington for his "Yankee deserters go home" (Edmonton Sun). He not only doesn't grasp how many "deserters" Canada took in during Vietnam, he refers to Bill Clinton and the Bully Boy as "draft dodgers" which neither were by the topics he's covering. One person who is effected immediately is Corey Glass who's been given a one month extension on his deportation order (which was to have taken effect this Thursday). Liam Lahey's "Parkdale resident faces deportation to U.S." (Ontario Mirror Guardian):
Corey Glass looks and sounds much like any average 25-year-old. And he would be if it weren't for the fact he'll be deported to the U.S. on July 10 to face charges of desertion from the U.S. Army and the Iraq War.
Glass, who arrived in Canada in August 2007 and resides in a modest apartment in Parkdale, hails from Fairmount, Ind. He voluntarily joined the National Guard in 2004 believing he could help in disaster zone scenarios or to defend American soil should the country fall under an enemy attack.
Trained as a radio operator, he was promoted to the rank of sergeant (from that of an E4 Specialist - an enlisted rank that falls between a private and a corporal) and he was subsequently shipped to Iraq in early 2005. When he got there, he was assigned two tasks, neither of which had anything to do with radios.
"I have no idea why they promoted me, I even argued against it," he said. "You have to go to school to be a sergeant and I didn't school for that."
Though he was slated to serve 18 months in Iraq, he only served six as both a military intelligence analyst and as a battle non-commissioned officer working 16-hour days on average.
"It got to me one day after something that happened and I can't go into that detail but I had to quit," he said. "I didn't feel (the war) was the right thing to do from the beginning and I definitely didn't feel we should be doing this to the Iraqis. ... I went because I was ordered to go but it got to a point where my conscience wasn't clear with what I was doing."
June notes the following May 21st statement from CFSC (Canadian Friends Service Committee) which is reprinted below and in PDF format here:
Canada No Longer a Safe Haven for U.S. War Resisters
A Response to Ottawa's Decision to Deport Corey Glass
Toronto: As signatories to the War Resisters Declaration, our concern for conscientious objectors around the world leads us to speak out against the decision today to order the first deportation of a U.S. war resister who had come to Canada seeking refuge.
Corey Glass is a Sergeant in the United States National Guard. In July 2006, after his first tour of service in Iraq, Corey Glass fled to Canada, and applied for refugee status, which was refused.
Today, Glass was informed by the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration that he is at no risk of persecution in being sent back to the United States and, moreover, that he will not be allowed to stay in Canada on humanitarian and compassionate grounds.
Although many may say, "Well, he volunteered, he should be willing to suffer the consequences of his actions", we believe this is a misguided understanding about consequence and conscience.
Punishment should not be the product of conscientious action. Rather it is the result of conscience being met by callousness and a closed heart. In the best of worlds, conscientious objections open our eyes and hearts to see another view of the world as it is, and call upon us, at minimum, to not be complacent and, at best, to work for change and redress.
Corey Glass came to Canada after his military duty in Iraq led him to realize that he had a conscientious objection to the war – its objectives and the way that it was being fought, with clear violations of international law.
Some may also question whether members of an "all-volunteer army" have any rights of asylum.
The UNHCR Handbook on Refugees, the standard-bearer for such questions, says they do. To qualify for asylum, a soldier must "show that the performance of military service would have required his participation in military action contrary to his genuine political, religious or moral convictions, or to valid reasons of conscience." Being in disagreement with one's government is not enough, unless "the type of military action...is condemned by the international community as contrary to basic rules of human conduct, punishment for desertion or draft-evasion could, in the
light of all other requirements of the definition, in itself be regarded as persecution."
Many countries, including Canada, refused to participate in the Iraq war because it was not sanctioned by the Security Council. Many churches and citizens in Canada and around the world opposed the war . And, in 2004, the UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan, declared that "[The Iraq War] was not in conformity with the UN charter from our point of view, from the charter point of view, it was illegal."
The Iraq War's human rights abuses, particularly related to torture and unjust detention, have been condemned in the press and by international human rights organizations. What further evidence is needed to demonstrate that a refusal to serve in this war meets the burden of proof for international condemnation? Volunteering for the army does not mean that a soldier signs away their conscience -- or their rights.
Sadly, today, Canada failed Corey Glass. But more than that, it has failed Canadians who themselves believe in protecting not only those who are at risk of torture or persecution, but also those who have "done the right thing". Their punishment will be tantamount to persecution.
And Canada, which so warmly welcomed tens of thousands of men and women -- draft dodgers, deserters, conscientious objectors -- from Viet Nam and other wars, has regrettably taken a step backwards in demonstrating moral stewardship.
For the war resisters, their good faith was abused by an administration that misled them about the basis of the war ("weapons of mass destruction"; links to 9/11). It took courage for them to say "no" and even more courage to leave all that is familiar behind and come to Canada. And now they are being betrayed by the country that for so many others has been a safe haven.
Punishment was not a requisite outcome for these conscientious objectors but it will be their destiny unless Canadians themselves speak up and tell the Government of Canada to not deport these young people and to let them stay.
Canadian Friends Service Committee (Quakers)
The United Church of Canada
Mennonite Central Committee -- Canada
American Friends Service Committee (Quakers)
Meanwhile, Lloyd notes Walter Pincus' "U.S. Official Cites 'Hardening' of Iraqi Detainees" (Washington Post):
U.S. combat commanders are currently sending about 30 prisoners a day to the main U.S.-run detention centers in Iraq, with more of the detainees likely to be held for longer periods as security risks than those prisoners taken when the U.S. troop buildup first began last year, according to Maj. Gen. Douglas Stone Jr., the former head of the Iraq detention program.
"We're seeing a hardening of the population where there are guys that are as bad as they come," Stone told reporters yesterday at a Pentagon news conference. "Division commanders have gotten much better at determining that the guy's a real, legitimate . . . imperative security risk," he added, saying "conditions are perhaps a little bit less chaotic on the ground, so you can collect more information" about the detainees and determine that they would not be released after their initial six-month review.
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