War Resister Ordered Deported

A statement issued today by the Canadian Friends Service Committee (Quakers), The United Church of Canada, the  Mennonite Central Committee – Canada and the American Friends Service Committee (Quakers)

Canada No Longer a Safe Haven for U.S .War Resisters:
A Response to Ottawa’s Decision to Deport Corey Glass
 
Toronto: As signatories to the War Resisters Declaration, our concern for conscientious objectors around the world leads us to speak out against the decision today to order the first deportation of a U.S. war resister who had come to Canada seeking refuge.

Corey Glass is a Sergeant in the United States National Guard. In July 2006, after his first tour of service in Iraq, Corey Glass fled to Canada, and applied for refugee status, which was refused.

Today, Glass was informed by the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration that he is at no risk of persecution in being sent back to the United States and, moreover, that he will not be allowed to stay in Canada on humanitarian and compassionate grounds.

Although many may say, “Well, he volunteered, he should be willing to suffer the consequences of his actions”, we believe this is a misguided  understanding about consequence and conscience. Punishment should not be the product of conscientious action. Rather it is the result of conscience being met by callousness and a closed heart. In the best of worlds, conscientious objections open our eyes and hearts to see another view of the world as it is, and call upon us, at minimum, to not be complacent and, at best, to work for change and redress.

Corey Glass came to Canada after his military duty in Iraq led him to realize that he had a conscientious objection to the war – its objectives and the way that it was being fought, with clear violations of international law.

Some may also question whether members of an “all-volunteer army” have any rights of asylum. The UNHCR Handbook on Refugees, the standard-bearer for such questions, says they do. To qualify for asylum, a soldier must “show that the performance of military service would have required his participation in military action contrary to his genuine political, religious or moral convictions, or to valid reasons of conscience.” Being in disagreement with one’s government is not enough, unless “the type of military action…is condemned by the international community as contrary to basic rules of human conduct, punishment for desertion or draft-evasion could, in the light of all other requirements of the definition, in itself be regarded as persecution.”

Many countries, including Canada, refused to participate in the Iraq war because it was not sanctioned by the Security Council. Many churches and citizens in Canada and around the world opposed the war . And, in 2004, the UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan, declared that “[The Iraq War] was not in conformity with the UN charter from our point of view, from the charter point of view, it was illegal.”

The Iraq War’s human rights abuses, particularly related to torture and unjust detention, have been condemned in the press and by international human rights organizations. What further evidence is needed to demonstrate that a refusal to serve in this war meets the burden of proof for international condemnation? Volunteering for the army does not mean that a soldier signs away their conscience – or their rights.

Sadly, today, Canada failed Corey Glass. But more than that, it has failed Canadians who themselves believe in protecting not only those who  are at risk of torture or persecution, but also those who have “done the right thing”. Their punishment will be tantamount to persecution.

And Canada, which so warmly welcomed tens of thousands of men and women – draft dodgers, deserters, conscientious objectors – from Viet Nam and other wars, has regrettably taken a step backwards in demonstrating moral stewardship.

For the war resisters, their good faith was abused by an administration that misled them about the basis of the war (“weapons of mass destruction”; links to 9/11). It took courage for them to say “no” and even more courage to leave all that is familiar behind and come to Canada. And now they  are being  betrayed by the country that for so many others has been a safe haven.

Punishment was not a requisite outcome for these conscientious objectors but it will  be their destiny unless Canadians themselves speak up and tell the Government of Canada to not deport these young people and to let them stay.
 
Canadian Friends Service Committee (Quakers)
The United Church of Canada
Mennonite Central Committee – Canada
American Friends Service Committee (Quakers)

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