Letter to the Canadian Government
ANGLO AMERICA, 8 Feb 2016
4 Feb 2016
The Right Honourable Justin Trudeau
Prime Minister of Canada
Office of the Prime Minister
80 Wellington Street
Ottawa, Ontario, CANADA K1A 0A2
The Honourable John McCallum
Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship
House of Commons
Ottawa, Ontario, CANADA K1A 0A6
Dear Prime Minister Trudeau and Minister McCallum:
We are writing you on behalf of Veterans For Peace, an international organization based in the United States, with chapters in 14O U.S. cities, as well as in the United Kingdom, Ireland, Mexico, South Korea and Vietnam. Our urgent mission is to abolish war once and for all and to build a culture of peace.
First of all, Prime Minister Trudeau, we would like to congratulate you on your election victory. We wish you much success in the big job of leading the great nation of Canada, where a number of us have lived and continue to cherish precious relationships and fond memories.
We applaud you for one of your very first acts as Prime Minister, withdrawing Canada armed forces from the US/NATO air war in Syria and Iraq. We also commend you and Minister McCallum for your government’s generous and exemplary policy toward Syrian refugees. It is clear that the people of Syria and Iraq desperately need a political solution, and that more bloodshed and more traumatized refugees is not the way to get there. We hope that Canada will consistently encourage diplomacy leading to an end to these horrible wars, which threaten to further enflame the entire Middle East, and could even lead to nuclear war.
Our primary purpose in writing you today concerns some unfinished business stemming from the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq. As you know, a number of young men and women from the United States have sought refuge in Canada, after fleeing from the U.S. military in order to avoid fighting in an unnecessary war which Canada wisely chose not to join.
Many of these young Americans had already deployed once or twice to Iraq before they came to Canada, and they became Conscientious Objectors based on firsthand experience. They came to Canada with expectations of finding a safe haven, as did Vietnam era draft resisters and deserters before them. Instead they have faced nearly ten years of unfair and unjust legal and political actions at the hands of the Conservative government of Stephen Harper.
Some U.S. war resisters, such as Kimberly Rivera, Patrick Hart, Robin Long and Cliff Cornell, were deported by the Harper government to the U.S., where they served prison sentences up to fifteen months, were denied treatment for Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome, and were subjected to cruel and unusual punishment. Ms. Rivera, for example, was forced to give birth in prison and have her baby immediately taken away from her, even though she was to be released from prison the following week. All of these war resisters have been branded with Dishonorable and Bad Conduct Discharges, which will stigmatize them for a lifetime of discrimination in the job market and elsewhere.
U.S. war resisters remaining in Canada have been forced to live with great uncertainty and stress, not knowing when they might be deported from Canada. For the nonviolent “crime” of refusing to participate in the mass murder of an illegal war, they are facing persecution from the U.S. government and opposition from the Canadian government they thought would shield them from persecution. One such war resister, Iraq veteran Rodney Watson, has actually been living in church sanctuary in Vancouver for almost seven years.
Now is the right moment for a magnanimous gesture on the part of the new Liberal government, a move that would be welcomed by a majority of Canadians (60%, according to a polll a few years ago from a prestigious Canadian polling firm).
Please let our war resisters remain in Canada, safe and secure, as has been requested twice by the House of Commons.
Please put an end to the deportations of U.S. war resisters.
Please stop the pursuit of war resister cases in court, as doing so defends decisions and policies made by the Harper government.
Please rescind Operational Bulletin 202, a directive that instructs Immigration Officers to flag all U.S. war resisters, labelling them criminals and stating they are potentially inadmissible before even hearing their cases. According to Amnesty International Canada, it is “a violation of international refugee law to suggest that deserters are automatically inadmissible to Canada.” Veterans For Peace hopes you will implement a new Operational Bulletin that restores fairness for all war resister cases and reverses the harm done.
Please make it possible for U.S. war resisters to become legal residents of Canada.
Prime Minister Trudeau, Veterans For Peace was encouraged by your response during a campaign rally to the wife of Iraq war resister Joshua Key. You indicated that you would have a much more compassionate approach toward Iraq war resisters than that of Stephen Harper’s Conservative government. Now would be the time to move clearly in that direction, before the responsibilities of your office create too many distractions, and Iraq war resisters find themselves with no relief from Harper era policies.
Some of us in Veterans For Peace were beneficiaries of your father, Pierre Trudeau’s generous welcome of Vietnam war resisters, when he famously stated that “Canada should be a refuge from militarism.” What better way to honor your father’s memory while addressing an outstanding need of today. You will also be honoring the wishes of Canadian citizens, the majority of whom wish to provide a safe haven to Iraq war resisters.
Your directive to make it possible for Iraq war resisters to immigrate to Canada will make many people happy, beginning, of course, with the war resisters and their families, who have suffered greatly up until now for following their consciences and refusing to kill.
Veterans For Peace wishes to thank the thousands of Canadians who have done so much to support U.S. war resisters, both during the Vietnam War and during recent U.S. wars. For this, we will be forever grateful.
Prime Minister Trudeau, please do the right thing by these courageous young war resisters. These are conscientious people who will make great contributions to Canada, as have previous generations of war resisters and refugees. Veterans For Peace will be most thankful. We will be happy to do whatever we can to support you in addressing this unfinished business.
We look forward to hearing from you, and we stand ready to help in any way we can.
Sincerely for Peace,
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