Support for U.S. war resisters in Canada
HUNDREDS OF protesters gathered in front of Canadian consulates in 14 U.S. cities on July 10 to protest planned deportations of conscientious objector Corey Glass and other U.S. war resisters currently seeking refuge in Canada.
Glass, a National Guard sergeant who served in Iraq in 2005, moved to Toronto in 2006 rather than face the prospect of again participating in what he considered "an unjust war."
"When I joined the national guard," Glass explained at a May press conference, "they told me the only way I would be in combat is if there were troops occupying the United States...I signed up to defend people and do humanitarian work filling sandbags if there was a hurricane; I should have been in New Orleans, not Iraq."
In June, Glass was given deportation orders, set for July 10, prompting the antiwar organizations Courage to Resist, Veterans for Peace and Project Safe Haven to call the emergency protests at consulates across the U.S.
In San Francisco, Courage to Resist was joined by members of the Raging Grannies, Veterans for Peace Chapter 69, American Friends Service Committee, BAY-Peace, the Campus Antiwar Network, Code Pink and the International Socialist Organization. The rally numbered close to 50 participants at its peak.
Shortly after the demonstrations, activists received word that a the Canadian Federal Court had granted Glass a last-minute reprieve, giving him the opportunity to appeal earlier rulings over the next few months, with the hope of remaining in Canada.
Organizer and veteran Adam Seibert explained the role he felt the protests played: "If you don't have troops, you can't have a war. The more troops who resist, the easier it is to stop the war--and the more visible public support that exists the easier it is for other troops to resist...Seventy-five percent of Conscientious Objector applications are denied, so for most soldiers resisting is the only option."
GLASS' VICTORY comes on the heels of a July 4 Canadian court decision to reopen the asylum case of fellow GI Joshua Key. The Canadian Federal Court ruled that the regular abuse of Iraqi civilians by the U.S. military constitutes a systematic human rights violation, and could be a basis for granting refugee status to those who refuse to participate.
Support has come from many Canadian politicians as well. On June 3 of this year, the Canadian House of Commons passed a resolution stating, "The government should immediately cease any removal or deportation actions" against "conscientious objectors and their immediate family members, who have left military service related to a war not sanctioned by the United Nations." Shortly afterward, a poll showed that two-thirds of Canadians supported the right of U.S. war resisters to seek sanctuary and remain in the country.
Despite this overwhelming public support, Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Immigration Minister Diane Finley have moved forward with plans to deport U.S. GIs, of which there are at least 200 in Canada, according to Bradley Hughes of the War Resisters Support Campaign.
Even as Glass and Key won temporary victories, conscientious objector Robin Long was taken into custody in British Columbia and has been told that he could be deported as soon as July 15. If this occurs, Long would be the first war resister deported back to the U.S. since the beginning of the Vietnam War, when 50,000 Americans refused to fight in the war against Vietnam and emigrated to Canada.
Veterans like Long, if forced to return, face the imminent threat of arrest, court-martial, dishonorable discharge and a prison sentence. Like many U.S. GIs in Canada, Long lives with his partner and young son, and remains committed to his decision. "I remember that a soldier is just a uniform following orders," he said. "A warrior is the man or woman that follows their conscience and does the right thing in the face of adversity."