A look back at PBI-Canada’s endorsement of the War Resisters Support Campaign

Published by Brent Patterson on

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This coming May 15th is International Conscientious Objector Day.

In Canada, the War Resisters Support Campaign was founded in 2004 to assist US military personnel who refused to participate in the Iraq war and came here seeking asylum.

Peace Brigades International-Canada endorsed this campaign that called on the Canadian government to demonstrate its commitment to international law and the treaties to which it is a signatory, by making provision for US war objectors to have sanctuary in this country.

The Iraq War began on March 20, 2003, when the United States joined by the United Kingdom and several coalition allies, launched a “shock and awe” bombing campaign.

Then-Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chrétien stated that Canada would only participate in the military intervention if it were sanctioned by the United Nations.

The BBC has reported, “By 31 August 2010, when the last US combat troops left, 4,421 [American soldiers] had been killed, of which 3,492 were killed in action. Almost 32,000 had been wounded in action. According to IBC there have been between 97,461 and 106,348 [Iraqi] civilian deaths up to July 2010.”

In July 2016, the Chilcot inquiry delivered its verdict on the decision by former prime minister Tony Blair to commit British troops to the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003.

The report stated, “We have concluded that the UK chose to join the invasion of Iraq before the peaceful options for disarmament had been exhausted. Military action at that time was not a last resort.”

In August 2016, The Guardian reported, “Unlike [the Vietnam War draft resisters] who poured into Canada in the 1960s and 70s, the estimated 200 Iraq war resisters who arrived decades later found little government support in their bid to stay in Canada.”

“Years after crossing the border, the 15 or so known resisters who remain in Canada live lives coloured with uncertainty, the threat of being deported home to face potential jail time for desertion looming constantly over their new lives.”

That article adds, “Polls suggest most Canadians support the idea of allowing war resisters to stay in the country, with 63% saying in June that they should be allowed to become permanent residents.”

In June 2019, Osgoode Hall Law School Professor Sean Rehaag wrote in The Conversation, “Dozens of U.S. soldiers who had voluntarily enlisted in the military and served in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan sought asylum in Canada to avoid jail time when they deserted because they came to object to those wars.”

“The Canadian government denied most of their refugee claims, saying that they could have possibly qualified for conscientious objector status back home.”

For more on the War Resisters Support Campaign, please click here. To learn more about International Conscientious Objectors Day, click here.

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