American war resister told to leave Canada

August 14th, 2008 - 11:29 am ICT by IANS  

Toronto, Aug 14 (IANS) Canada Wednesday ordered the first American resister to the Iraq war, who deserted his army unit before being sent to the war zone and defected here, to leave the country before Sep 23. Twenty-nine-year-old Jeremy Hinzman, who had earlier done a non-combative stint in Afghanistan, became the first American soldier to defect to Canada just days before his infantry unit was ordered to duty in Iraq in 2004.

Hinzman, who fled to Toronto with his wife Nga Nguyen and his son Liam (now six), sought refugee status in Canada on grounds of his conscientious objection to the Iraq war.

But the Canadian immigration and refugee board rejected his plea in March 2005 despite pressure from the War Resisters Support Campaign.

Later when the federal court of appeal also upheld the decision of the refugee board, Hinzman moved the supreme court of Canada.

But the country’s apex court refused to entertain his petition.

After this, he filed a petition with the refugee board for permanent residence on compassionate grounds, citing that he could face torture if sent back to the US. But the board was not moved by his plea.

Reacting to the Canadian government’s decision to throw him and his family out of the country, the American said: “We’re disappointed. Life goes on and we’ll make the most of it wherever we end up”.

Hinzman, whose wife gave birth to their daughter Meghan three weeks ago, made light of his predicament by saying that he could be back in Canada when his daughter (being a Canadian because of her birth here) grew up.

The government’s decision comes despite the nation’s parliament passing a resolution in June, calling on Ottawa to let American war resisters stay in Canada.

Criticising the government, the War Resisters Support Campaign, which is fighting against deportation of about a dozen American war resisters sheltering in Canada, said: “This decision flies in the face of the motion adopted by parliament on June 3, 2008, which calls on the government to allow US war resisters to apply for permanent resident status in Canada.

“It (deportation) also rejects the will of Canadians who have demonstrated in various polls that they want war resisters to stay.”

The group appealed to immigration minister Diane Finley to intervene “to prevent the Hinzman family from being sent to the US to be punished”.

Hinzman will be the second war resister to be deported to the US. Robin Long, who was deported earlier this year, is currently detained at Fort Carson in Colorado.

During the Vietnam war, thousands of American draft dodgers had defected to Canada to later become citizens of this country.

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