Kimberly Rivera, the first female war resister to cross the Canadian border, was granted a temporary stay March 25 by the Federal Court in Canada after facing imminent deportation, granting her some time to fight against the Conservative Canadian government’s attempts to deport her to the United States.
Rivera, who served in Iraq in 2006 with a Field Artillery unit, is one of the hundreds of war resisters in Canada who continue to battle in the legal system for the right to stay in Canada. The Federal Court is currently deciding whether to review a decision by the Canadian Refugee and Immigration Board to reject Rivera’s pre-removal risk assessment, which evaluates the risk an applicant would face if returned to the applicant’s native country.
“I am very, very excited. I don’t have to be handed over to authorities, so it gives me another day to fight,” Rivera told the Canadian Press.
Her case is similar to other resisters residing in Canada. Public polls and parliamentary motions continue to show strong support for developing an asylum program for U.S. soldiers in Canada. According to a poll conducted in June 2008, 64 percent of Canadians want their government to grant residency status to resisters.
Dean Walcott, another war resister in Canada, received a temporary stay recently from the Federal Court as well. But Walcott, like Rivera and the estimated 100-200 war resisters, still face deportation from Canada.
Rivera and Walcott’s temporary victory comes after a February 12 vote by the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration in the Canadian Parliament that voted to reaffirm a June 2008 nonbinding resolution, which called for the government to grant residency to war resisters in Canada.
The June 2008 resolution, which passed 137-110 in the House of Commons, recommended that the government, “immediately implement a program to allow conscientious objectors and their immediate family members (partners and dependents), who have refused or left military service related to a war not sanctioned by the United Nations and do not have a criminal record, to apply for permanent resident status and remain in Canada.” It also demanded that the Canadian government, “immediately cease any removal or deportation actions that may have already commenced against such individuals.”
So far, Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his Immigration Minister, Jason Kenney, have ignored the Canadian Parliament’s requests. Instead, they have moved ahead with deportation proceedings, snubbing public opinion and the House of Commons’ resolutions. Kenney has come under criticism from Amnesty International and other organizations for saying in a January 2009 interview that the resisters’ attempts to stay in Canada constituted “bogus” claims. Lee Zaslofsky, a Vietnam War-era resister and national coordinator for the War Resisters Support Campaign, fired back, saying, “Minister Kenney’s comments show the Harper government has a blanket policy of opposition to all war resisters, which makes it nearly impossible for them to be treated on a ‘case-by-case basis’ as our government has been leading Canadians to believe they would,” according to CBC News.
In a June 2008 email to the Indypendent, Danielle Norris, a spokesperson for the department of Citizenship and Immigration in Canada, wrote, “The Government of Canada will not be implementing any special provisions for American war deserters…The [Immigration and Refugee Board], the Federal Court and the Federal Court of Appeal have indicated their agreement that the U.S. military deserters who have brought their cases forward to date are not in need of Canada’s protection.”
Robin Long, an Iraq War resister who fled to Canada because he believed the war to be illegal and immoral, became the first casualty of the Harper Administration’s position after he was deported to the United States last summer. Long was subsequently court-martialed and sentenced to 15 months in a military brig, where he continues to reside.
A recent statement from prison explained why Long left the military behind. “I did not sign to be the strong arm for corporate interests of oil. The so-called ‘liberation’ of Iraq has turned into nothing more than a constant and protracted struggle for the people, against the forces that are trying to impose their will upon them for power and profit,” Long wrote.
Currently, Iraq War resister Cliff Cornell, who was arrested by U.S. Border Police after coming back to the U.S. as a consequence of receiving deportation orders from Canada, is awaiting trial. He has been charged with desertion.
Past coverage of war resisters in Canada in the Indypendent: