Canada to U.S. Deserters: Stay Home
This week, Canada's Parliament defeated a bill which would have forced the government to shelter Americans who fled to Canada to avoid military service.
On its second reading in the Commons, Liberal MP Gerard Kennedy’s Private Member’s Bill C-440, requiring the government to cease deportation proceedings and grant permanent residency to Americans who come to Canada rather than go to war, was beaten 143 - 136.
It was a bit of a surprise, given that polls show most Canadians are fed up with the war in Afghanistan. Even more supported the past Liberal government for not joining the U.S. war against Iraq and Saddam Hussein. The Private Member’s bill which was originally introduced by Liberal MP Gerard Kennedy, and seconded by NDP-er Bill Siksay, applied to those identified as “Iraq war resisters.”
Greatest support comes from aging Vietnam War draft dodgers who came to Canada. Many became productive Canadian citizens.
The Harper government has turned a cold shoulder to Americans who came here to escape going to Iraq and Afghanistan, and who call themselves conscientious objectors.
There’s a qualitative difference been Vietnam draft dodgers and today’s so-called “war resisters.” The draft dodger didn’t want to go to Vietnam, didn’t like the army, but since there was the draft (conscription) it was lump it, or leave the country.
“War resisters,” is a polite word for “deserter.” These are people who joined the U.S. army for whatever reason, and then decided they didn’t want to go to Iraq (or Afghanistan), or to return to the war zone, so decided to conscientiously object – not in their country, but a neighboring country.
Color it anyway you like, the bottom line is they ran away. In any army, “desertion” is an offence. If these Americans who are now seeking permanent residence in Canada truly oppose the idea of being in the army, why did they enlist in the first place?
Some sought an education or trade, and thought it was easy money. Others may have joined in a fit of patriotism after 9/11— and then changed their mind. Some went to Iraq the first time, didn’t like it, and deserted when they were ordered back for a second tour.
Some justify their actions by calling it an illegal war, and that they don’t want to kill innocent civilians. Pretty weak.
Those who think wars are stupid and unnecessary, and that soldiers are brutes who kill innocent people, do not usually join the army. Those who join the army and change their mind, should have the courage to endure the consequences. It is not bravery to run away and oblige a neighboring country to give asylum, against the wishes of a democratic ally.
So-called war resisters are not conventional refugees. They don’t face a death penalty or lifetime in prison if they are deported. Their lives are not in danger.
There may be individual cases among those fighting deportation, who deserve Canada’s generosity. But a blanket approval would be to insult and scorn thousands of our own citizens who join the army, and re-sign when their original contract expires, and endure repeated tours in Afghanistan.
Polls can be misleading. Many who say they support sanctuary for “war resisters” and/or “conscientious objectors,” might not be so quick to voice approval of “deserters” or “cowards.”
Bill C-440 seems another ploy to re-focus Canadian values, and in a way dishonors those who don’t like war, but do what they see as their duty and live up to their word. That’s what courage is. And that’s how 143 MPs voted last Wednesday.