Protesters gather outside the Canadian Embassy in Washington on Friday to demand that Canada halt deportation cases and allow hundreds of U.S. resisters to the Iraq war to remain in Canada. (Evan Vucci / AP)
WASHINGTON — About 50 American veterans of the Iraq War and other demonstrators gathered at the Canadian Embassy in Washington on Friday to demand that the Canadian government allow hundreds of U.S. resisters to the Iraq conflict to remain in Canada.
The protesters presented a letter addressed to Ambassador Michael Wilson to an embassy representative. The letter asks the Canadian government not to allow the deportation of United States soldiers who have fled to Canada to avoid serving in Iraq.
Geoff Maillard, president of the Washington, D.C., chapter of Iraq Veterans Against the War, said the group was able to hand over both the letter and a supporting petition containing thousands of names.
Maillard said the Canadian government requires the U.S. soldiers who have fled to Canada to go through a refugee process, but the refugee board refuses to consider the question of whether the Iraq war is legal. He said that argument is central to the war resisters’ claim that they are fleeing a conflict that "clearly violates" international law against wars of aggression.
"These war resisters are leaving the U.S. not because they’re afraid to fight in a war but because their conscience will not allow them to fight in a war that clearly violates Common Article 3 of the Geneva Accord," Maillard said.
"The fact is that these young men and women are bravely standing up for international law and they are being rebuffed at every turn."
In November, the Supreme Court of Canada refused to hear appeals from Jeremy Hinzman and Brandon Hughey, who sought refugee status on the grounds of their opposition to the war in Iraq.
But last month the Commons committee on citizenship and immigration adopted a motion that the government implement a program to allow American war resisters and their families to stay in Canada.
Now groups such as the Oakland, Calif.-based Courage to Resist, which organized the Washington protest and eight similar demonstrations elsewhere in the U.S. Friday, want the full Commons to consider the matter when it resumes next month.
Max Diorio, an organizer for Courage to Resist, said, "Our message is: ‘Dear Canada — let our war resisters stay.’"
"We believe that these war resisters should be allowed a safe haven from persecution on the basis of resisting an illegal and immoral war and occupation," Diorio said.
"We are encouraging the Canadian government to take a similar stand as it did in the ’60s and ’70s when Canada was a safe haven."
When some American draft dodgers fled to Canada to escape the Vietnam War, then-Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau was quoted as saying "Canada should be a refuge from militarism."
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