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Uh, Oh Canada!

By Cindy Sheehan

Recently the Canadian Supreme Court refused to hear appeals on the denial of refugee status for two US military Iraq war resisters that were among the firs to flee to Canada: Jeremy Hinzman and Brandon Hughey. I have had the opportunity to meet both of these brave and honorable young men on my many trips to Canada imploring the government and the people to accept our war resisters as our Northern Neighbors have done in the past. With 64.6% of Canadians supporting allowing our Iraq war resisters to stay, this situation is another example of how governments simply refuse to listen to their citizens.

When I met with leaders of the separatist party, the Bloc Quebecois, they were very sympathetic but outlined their reasons for not supporting resolutions to grant our resisters amnesty, refugee status or asylum. The Bloc has since changed their policy and do support giving our war resisters amnesty, but their past reasoning can help us understand what is happening up North.

The women from the Bloc told me that our soldiers don’t meet the UN requirements for refugee status because first of all, there is no forced draft in the USA; and secondly, our prisons are not so bad and Canada has to make room for other more needy refugees. I used my own story and experiences to try to refute their arguments.

First, and foremost, I told the leaders something that they already knew, because Canada refused to participate in the “Coalition of the Willing.” The invasion and occupation of Iraq, was and is, illegal and immoral. Our soldiers, especially ones like Casey who signed up before the horror-show known as the Bush Regime was in power, should not have to choose between prison (whether they are not so bad, or not, which is another debatable issue) or killing the innocent citizens of Iraq to benefit the war profiteers. Although I begged him to head for Canada the last time I saw him alive, Casey was “rewarded” for selecting one of the abhorrent choices with a Bronze Star and Purple Heart posthumously that were pinned to his lifeless chest and buried for eternity with him. If our children are "volunteers" in an "all voluntary" military, when the mission changes or when they are forced to participate in a corrupt mission, our children should be able to "un-volunteer" without having to flee the country or go to prison.

Even if our soldiers did sign up after BushCo declared their war of terror, recruiters are infamous for lying to potential recruits. I would equate Military Recruiters to used car salespersons, but Recruiters know that they are sending our young people off to die, kill, or become infected with depleted uranium or other physical and mental illnesses that accompany all war whether it is just or not. My son’s recruiter lied to him and put five of those lies in writing. It is a little known fact, and most recruiters will not inform their recruits, that the enlistment contract is a unilateral contract and only binding on the recruit, not the US military. The one promise that Casey’s recruiter: Sgt. Big Fat Liar told my trusting and trustworthy son that he broke was that even if there was a war (Casey signed up in May, 2000), Casey would not “see any combat.” I recently met a young man fresh from boot camp that was on his way to Canada. His recruiter promised him that he would not have to be deployed to Iraq, but as soon as he graduated from boot camp he received his orders to head to Iraq.

Not only are our often-gullible young people faced with dishonest and unconscionable recruiting practices, if our soldiers are lucky enough to not be killed in Iraq, they return to a VA system that is broken and many cannot find help or hope for their physical and/or emotional wounds. The incidences of suicide among our veterans are appalling (but at least they get a parade once a year) and now if our kids are wounded and unable to return to the front lines before their enlistment periods are up our soulless government is asking them to repay their enlistment bonuses! I am surprised we didn’t get a bill for Casey’s re-enlistment bonus since he was killed 3 years before his enlistment was over.
We as a peace movement need to support the Iraq war resisters (I would also add Afghanistan, but that’s a little more controversial in the movement).

If we are pro-peace and anti-war, if our children slip through the cracks and are successfully preyed upon by recruiters, then we must support their decisions to not be used as cannon fodder for maniacal BushCo. Not all of our young people who enlist are stone-cold killers, but most see little choice in today’s economy that is bereft of opportunity and where university is prohibitively high.

Action items:

Write to Canadian officials to request that they accept our war resisters as refugees.

Send money to organizations that support war resisters.

Support actual war resisters in Canada by sending them expense money. From my friend Ryan (I gave him and his wife money to get to Canada over two years ago):

In light of the recent Supreme Court denial in Canada, I (Ryan Johnson), My wife (Jen Johnson) and Brandon Hughey need help raising funds to travel to Ottawa to attend hearings before the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration, where War Resisters will be giving Testimony to the committee. At these hearings the committee will be deciding on whether or not to make a provision to allow war resisters to stay in Canada. This is one of our last chances to be able to continue living in Canada. We will be leaving December 7th because the hearings are December 11th, 2007 so we need to act fast. They may try to send guys back soon and we need to have a strong War Resister Presence. We appreciate all of the support and Want to thank all of you who can help.

Checks/money orders can be sent for Ryan, Jen and Brandon to:

312 Tower Rd
Nelson, BC V1L3K6

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