June 3 (Bloomberg) -- Canadian
lawmakers passed a non-binding resolution aimed at
pressuring the government to freeze deportations of U.S.
soldiers who fled to Canada after refusing to fight in
the war in Iraq.
Opposition parties with a majority
of seats in Parliament asked the government to allow
"conscientious objectors'' to wars not sanctioned by the
United Nations, such as the Iraq conflict, to apply for
permanent resident status. The resolution urges the
Conservative Party government to stop deportations
ordered by immigration tribunals. The motion passed by
137 to 110, with the Conservatives voting against.
Stephen Harper, who came to power in 2006 promising
improved relations with the U.S., hasn't tried to
overturn any tribunal decisions ordering U.S. resisters
deported. The vote conjures up controversial images from
the Vietnam War era, when Canada took in thousands of
Americans seeking to avoid being drafted or serving when
"Let's hope that public pressure
ultimately produces change in policy by the
government,'' New Democratic Party Leader
Jack Layton told reporters yesterday outside
So far, fewer than 40 Americans
have claimed refugee status in Canada because they
object to fighting in the Iraq War, according to
Danielle Norris, a spokeswoman for Canada's immigration
department in Ottawa. The five people who agreed to
release details of their cases were denied, she said.
Canadian law requires refugee
claimants to demonstrate a ``well-founded fear of
persecution'' such as torture or death should they be
sent back to their home countries, Norris said.
Officials also rely on a UN handbook that says they
should consider whether soldiers were drafted into
service or volunteered, as in the case of Iraq, she
The U.S. Army's maximum penalty
for desertion is five years in confinement, dishonorable
discharge and loss of all pay and benefits, according to
information e-mailed by Maj. Nathan Banks, an army
spokesman in Washington.
Banks declined to comment on the
Canadian motion. The U.S. embassy in Ottawa referred a
telephone call seeking comment to the military.
War Resisters Support Campaign estimates there are
as many as 200 American Iraq war resisters in Canada.
According to a May 22 report in the
Toronto Star, 25-year-old Corey Glass is the lone
resister ordered deported whose departure has been
Former Liberal Party Prime
Jean Chretien in 2003 refused to send troops to join
the war in Iraq because the invasion wasn't backed by
the UN, breaking with the U.S. and U.K., traditionally
Canada's closest allies. Another Liberal prime minister,
Pierre Trudeau, welcomed Vietnam War objectors after
Lester B. Pearson failed to persuade the U.S. to
find a mediated settlement to the conflict.
Canada took in between 50,000 and
80,000 Americans during the war in Southeast Asia,
according to the War Resisters Support Campaign.
Canada's immigration department didn't have figures
immediately available on that era.
"We have been undertaking
political action and public mobilization in order to get
a political solution to the problem, and that's what the
vote is about,'' said Lee Zaslofsky, national
coordinator for the war resisters' group. Before the
vote, he said it would be "a very big breakthrough for
the campaign and the war resisters if the elected
representatives of the Canadian people speak on their
Zaslofsky, 63, came to Canada from
the U.S. in 1970 and sought permanent resident status,
after finishing military training in South Carolina and
being ordered to report for duty in Vietnam.
"You could apply right at the
border,'' he said, adding that the paperwork took just
45 minutes. "It was surprisingly easy.''