View Full Version : Campaign To Give Army Deserters Refuge Persists

06-22-2005, 09:08 PM
Campaign to give army deserters refuge persists


CTV.ca News Staff

NDP MP Bill Siksay is lending his support to a campaign aimed at allowing a growing number of American military deserters to find refuge in Canada.

According to the British Columbia MP, the issue resonates with a lot of Canadians.

For example, Siksay told CTV's Canada AM early Wednesday, Canadians are widely opposed to the prison abuse reported at the Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay prisons.

"They're (also) outraged at the failure to produce any weapons of mass destruction, since that was one of the main reasons for going into this war," he added.

So far, that support has translated into 15,000 signatures on a petition organized by the community-based War Resisters Support Campaign.

"There's huge public support for these war resisters in Canada," Siksay said.

Joshua Key is one of dozens of U.S. soldiers who fled their army to seek refuge in Canada. After an eight-month tour in Iraq, Key said he couldn't face a return trip.

When asked whether that's not just part of the job, Key told Canada AM his Iraq tour wasn't exactly what he enlisted for.

"Everybody has a false interpretation that battle's supposed to be fought with tanks or between soldier and soldier," Key said, describing his frustration fighting a more amorphous enemy.

"It's just like you don't know what who it's going to be from one day to the next. You can't get rid of the whole population."

Rather than face incarceration in America, Key said he decided to head north.

His prospects of finding sanctuary in Canada are uncertain, however. Another American soldier who fled the military before he was to be shipped to Iraq, Jeremy Hinzman, was refused refugee status.

In a decision last March, Immigration and Refugee Board ruled Hinzman had not demonstrated a well-founded fear of persecution should he return to the United States.

He has since filed a Federal Court challenge to the ruling in hopes of staving off deportation.

Canada should welcome such ex-soldiers, Siksay said, inviting the message it would send the world.

"We don't want soldiers who check their conscience at the door when they sign up," the NDP MP said.

To the U.S. army, though, such soldiers are criminals who should face court martial and the possibility of a prison term.

According to the Pentagon, less than 1 per cent of the army has deserted from the Iraq war. Of those 6,000 soldiers, 150 are believed to be seeking refugee status in Canada.