Last week in parliament, Liberal Gerard Kennedy’s private member’s bill to grant U.S. military deserters permanent residency in Canada, died at the second reading by a vote of 143 to 136.
All conservatives voted against the bill along with some of Kennedy’s Liberal associates. The bill would have allowed military deserters from any country to apply for permanent residence as conscientious objectors to armed conflicts not sanctioned by the United Nations.
Conservatives bickered that the existing bill made it possible for deserters who might be unacceptable, based on war crimes or other offenses, to stay in Canada. Apparently, conservatives don’t know how to read.
The bill would have allowed deserters to apply for permanent residency, I’m pretty sure the immigration department knows how to reject applications. I also don’t see any war criminals seeking refuge in Canada. In fact, the war criminals are the people many of the conscientious objectors are running from.
Estimates say there is currently between three to four hundred American military deserters in Canada. Of the hundreds, Rodney Watson is one of the best known among them. An Iraq war veteran, Watson was forced under the military’s stop-loss program to return to Iraq for a second tour, but came to Canada in defiance.
The Conservative government ordered Watson to leave Canada on September 11, 2009. Watson then appealed to the First United Church in Vancouver for sanctuary and has now been living there for more than a year while he awaits a decision to let him stay on humanitarian grounds. “I did not return to Iraq because it is a war of aggression based on lies about weapons of mass destruction. I witnessed U.S. soldiers beating Iraqi civilians and using racist terms,” Watson said
During the Vietnam War, tens of thousands of Americans came to Canada to avoid the draft. The conservatives that were against this bill claimed that is the difference between then and now. Americans have a choice these days with an all volunteer army. “This is not a conscripted army, this is a volunteer army,” said Conservative MP Laurie Hawn, “If the deserters have issues with that, they should stay in their own country and fight it out in their own courts.”
Of course it’s not that simple. With the Conservatives blind support of Mr. Bush’s war; they still have no sight to see that the war itself was illegal. Attacking an unarmed nation unprovoked and unsanctioned by the UN is a war crime and under the Nuremberg principles anyone who fights in an illegal war is a war criminal, Nuremberg Principle IV states: “The fact that a person acted pursuant to order of his Government or of a superior does not relieve him from responsibility under international law, provided a moral choice was in fact possible to him.” The conservative government is not giving these “deserters” that choice.
We are effectively preventing these resisters from doing their duty as human beings by not allowing them to stay in Canada. If it wasn’t one of our allies that invaded a sovereign nation without just cause, I’m sure Harper would be welcoming them with open arms instead of pursuing them like criminals. The only criminals here are those in the former Bush Administration.
So while Rodney Watson sits patiently with his family in a Vancouver church and hundreds more await their fate, please do not sit idly by and leave these men in the hands of our narrow-minded government. Write a letter to your member of parliament, better yet, write a letter to Harper himself. http://www.pm.gc.ca/eng/contact.asp?featureId=10
See also: http://www.resisters.ca/