There are an estimated 150-200 deserters from the U.S. military who have made their way to Canada since the start of the Iraq War in 2003. About 50 of them have officially applied to stay in the country.
The first refugee-status application by an American Iraq War deserter, Jeremy Hinzman, was turned down in 2005. After 16 years in the U.S. military, nuclear engineer Chuck Wiley sought refuge in Canada to avoid another tour of duty in Iraq after he found out about Mission Presence. Mission Presence was a controversial strategy used to flush civilians out of their homes with low flying jet fighter planes in order to make it easier for ground troops to identify insurgents. Wiley realized this was against the Geneva Convention and was accused of mutiny by his commanding officers for questioning the legality of the mission.
Since the election of a conservative government in Canada in 2006 every application by a deserter for either refugee status, or permission to stay for compassionate reasons, has either been denied or is pending with little hope of success. A formal bill, C-440, meant to guarantee that deserters should be allowed to stay in the country and that provisions should be made to legalize their status, was struck down in the Parliament in September 2009.
Immigration Minister Jason Kenney introduced “Operational Bulletin 202” in the summer of 2010, which instructs Canadian border officials to red-flag refugee claims by American deserters and immigration officials are advised to consider ex-soldiers as “criminally inadmissible” into Canada. Amnesty International suggests that the bulletin violates international law.
A major part of many deserters legal strategy is based on the U.N. Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which states that soldiers may apply for asylum in another country if they face persecution in their own country for refusal to participate in an illegal war. Since the invasion of Iraq was not sanctioned by the U.N. and the reason given for invasion, alleged weapons of mass destruction, has been shown to be false, a serious inquiry into the legality of the war should be a substantial portion of any asylum hearing for a deserter. However Canada’s refugee board panel has been unwilling to examine the legality of the Iraq war for obvious political reasons. A country formerly a sanctuary for war resisters has made it clear that their new position is that deserters are unwelcome and will possibly face deportation if discovered.
Title: Sanctuary Denied: America’s War Deserters Face Deportation From Canada-and Then Prison
Author: Roman Goergen
Source: In These Times, Volume 35, Issue 3, March 2011
Student Researcher: Amy Ortiz, Sonoma State University
Faculty Evaluator: Professor Jim Preston