U.S. war resisters win battle in House of Commons

Since the 2003 invasion of Iraq by the United States, some deserters from the war have battled to remain in Canada. Yesterday (June 3), they scored a victory when the House of Commons passed a motion that urges the Conservative government to allow deserters and their families to remain in the country.

Speaking to the Straight from Ottawa, NDP MP Bill Siksay (Burnaby-Douglas) argued that the motion is a part of Canadians’ objection to the war in Iraq.

“Canadians are glad that the government of Canada refused to participate in the war in Iraq and I think that they want Canada to walk the talk on that,” Siksay said. “And one way to do that is to make sure that resisters to the war in Iraq are welcome in Canada.”

The motion is nonbinding and based on a report by the House of Commons immigration committee. Siksay raised a similar motion in May 2007, but it was rejected by Conservatives, Liberals, and the Bloc Québécois.

This time around, the motion was raised by NDP MP Olivia Chow (Trinity-Spadina) and passed 137 to 110 with the help of Liberals and the Bloc.

Speaking against the motion in the House on May 29, Conservative MP Laurie Hawn (Edmonton Centre) argued that U.S. deserters should state their cases before a U.S. court, according to Hansard reports.

He noted that the U.S. army is an all-volunteer service. “People do not join with their eyes closed,” Hawn said. “If they do, then they have their own problems.”

Brad McCall has been living in Vancouver with his girlfriend since September 2007. He made a refugee claim at the Canadian border after abandoning his army company in Colorado Springs because he didn’t want to commit “war crimes” in Iraq.

Reacting to the news, McCall told the Straight that he planned to celebrate, and then field interviews and prepare for the next battle.

McCall said that he was hopeful that the Conservative government will abide by the House’s recommendation, but cautioned that the war resisters had not won yet.

“I think they [the Conservatives] will probably just ignore it and see if anybody notices,” he said.

The Straight last spoke to McCall in December 2007. For that story, a Vancouver coordinator for the War Resisters Support Campaign estimated that there were approximately 200 American war resisters in Canada.