Iraq-war resisters spend Christmas in Vancouver

It will be a lean Christmas for some Iraq-war resisters living in Vancouver. These former U.S. army recruits are waiting on refugee claims and are fighting a return to the U.S. that could include imprisonment.

Brad McCall moved to Vancouver after abandoning his army company in September. He told the Straight that this Christmas was going to be different from those of his childhood in Alabama. There would be no spending money on presents this year, said McCall, who is still without a work visa.

But it’s not all bad. "I’ve got plenty of dinner invitations," he added. "There will be no lack of food for me."

McCall said that he would spend the holidays quietly, just hanging out with his Canadian girlfriend. He maintains that he has no regrets, including joining the U.S. army.

"Now that I’m in Canada and I’m in Vancouver, I realize how little I did really know about the world," he said. "I had pretty much been brainwashed my entire life, not to realize the struggles that are happening all over the world on a daily basis."

According to Sarah Bjorknas, Vancouver coordinator for the War Resisters Support Campaign, there are an estimated 200 American war resisters in Canada. Her organization is helping three in Vancouver with their refugee claims.

On December 6, the House of Commons immigration committee recommended that the federal government immediately implement a program for "conscientious objectors”¦who have refused military service related to a war not sanctioned by the United Nations" to remain in Canada. Several Conservatives, including MP Nina Grewal (Fleetwood–Port Kells), objected to the motion.

McCall called the recommendation a "big Christmas present" and said: "It definitely shows that this is going to be a political battle from here on out."

But McCall does not expect any phone calls from his family back in Alabama this Christmas; he said they do not support his decision. "But I always want to stress the importance of support and encouragement from Canadians," he said.

On December 13, reported on the stories of journalist Dahr Jamail, U.S. soldier Ian Combs, and photographer Farah Nosh, who have brought the pain of the war in Iraq to Vancouver.