War Resisters now 'criminally inadmissable' in Canada

Because they deserted the military of their country of origin

September 9, 2010 | Web First
By Esther Epp-Tiessen | Mennonite Central Committee

OTTAWA--Over the summer months, there have been several new developments for war resisters seeking permanent residency in Canada.

In June, the Federal Court of Appeal ruled in favour of Jeremy Hinzman, a U.S. war resister and conscientious objector, whose application for residency, under Humanitarian and Compassionate Grounds, had been denied early by an immigration official. In its ruling, the Court of Appeal noted that the officer dealing with Hinzman’s case had neglected to examine his religious, moral and political beliefs, including beliefs of conscientious objection, and he therefore deserved another opportunity to make his case. This is an important development for conscientious objectors seeking asylum in Canada.

On July 22, however, Canada's Department of Citizenship and Immigration issued a new directive related to war resisters. This directive indicates an intention to declare military deserters who seek refuge in Canada “criminally inadmissible” because they have deserted the military of their country of origin. And where persons are deemed criminally inadmissible, they will likely become ineligible for permanent residency. The War Resisters Campaign is currently researching the full meaning and impact of this directive.

Looking ahead, Bill C-440 will undergo an hour of debate on September 27, with a second reading vote taking place a few days later. This private member’s bill, introduced by Members of Parliament Gerard Kennedy and Bill Siksay in the Fall of 2009, calls for the government to stop deportation proceedings against resisters to wars not sanctioned by the United Nations (i.e. the Iraq War) and to allow them to apply for permanent residency.

In a recent Op Ed, Gerard Kennedy noted that Bill C-440 is all about how Canadians view the role of conscience. After World War II, the Nuremburg Trials affirmed the principle that soldiers are expected to act morally rather than simply follow orders. In a similar way, this bill supports the convictions of persons who voluntarily enlisted for military service in Iraq but who, due to conscience, came to resist participation in the war.

MCC Canada is encouraging Canadians to contact their Member of Parliament before September 27, urging them to support Bill C-440. Click here to e-mail your MP via the War Resisters Campaign website.

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