For the first time, Canada deports US war deserter

July 16th, 2008 - 12:33 pm ICT by IANS  

Toronto, July 16 (IANS) Canada has for the first time deported an American war deserter to possibly face court-martial at his Fort Knox base in the US. The Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) in Vancouver Tuesday deported 25-year-old Robin Long, who deserted his army unit and crossed into Canada three years ago to avoid participating in the Iraq war - which he called an “illegal war of aggression”.

His removal from Canada follows the order of Federal Court of Canada Justice Anne Mactavish, who rejected his plea for refugee status, saying he faced no threat in the US. The ruling followed the Canadian Supreme Court refusal in November to hear the case of US army deserters.

Interestingly, the Canadian parliament had passed a motion in June to let American war resisters to stay permanently in the country. The House of Commons overwhelmingly supported a motion moved by opposition New Democratic Party (NDP) leader Olivia Chow, which “reflected ordinary Canadians’ belief that George Bush’s war in Iraq is wrong and that resisters should not be deported to jail”.

The motion called on the Canadian government to allow all American war resisters and their immediate family members to stay in Canada permanently. Through that non-binding motion, the government was also asked to immediately withdraw any removal or deportation orders against war resisters.

However, the Conservative government of Stephen Harper, who is close to US President George Bush, paid no heed to the motion. Most of these US soldiers, who call themselves conscientious objectors, defected to Canada when they were ordered to go to fight in Iraq. Many say they were being sent to the war zone for the second time.

It is not the first time US war resisters have fled to Canada. During the Vietnam war, more than 50,000 American draft dodgers crossed into Canada between 1965 and 1973, refusing to participate in what they called an immoral war.

The then Left-leaning prime minister Pierre Trudeau had welcomed them, saying: “Those who make a conscientious judgement that they must not participate in this war… have my complete sympathy, and indeed our political approach has been to give them access to Canada. Canada should be a refuge from militarism.”

Most of them made British Columbia province their home, and are proud and successful Canadians today.

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