The War Resisters Support Campaign and Veterans For Peace (Buffalo Chapter) are co-sponsoring an event in Fort Erie, Ontario, Canada on October 16th. You will have a chance to meet some of the war resisters who have chosen to go to Canada rather than participate in the illegal occupations. Most of them have been to either Iraq or Afghanistan or both at least once.

Come and spend a few hours with them and their families. Find out who they are and why they made the choices they did.

These are wonderful men and women - the kind of people you would like to have as neighbors, but they can't come to the US to meet you or live in your neighborhood. If they return to the states they will be imprisoned. Find out about the personal and legal struggles they face.

I believe you will leave confused about why these people face prison for refusing to kill innocent people. We would like people to leave this event knowing some resister families and searching for a way to support them and other GI resisters whether they are in Canada, underground in the US, in prison, or where ever they may be. Hopefully we will be inspired to make an even stronger commitment to end the occupations and the ever increasing militarism all around us. -Russell Brown

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Q & A: 'private memeber's bill' & Bill C-440

What is Bill C-440?

Bill C-440 is a private member’s bill that, if passed, would allow U.S. Iraq War resisters to apply for permanent resident status in Canada. It was introduced by Member of Parliament (MP) Gerard Kennedy and seconded by MP Bill Siksay on September 17, 2009. The complete text of the bill is at the bottom of this page.

What is a “private member’s bill”?

A private member’s bill is a bill introduced in the House of Commons by an MP who is not a cabinet minister – that is, a member of one of the opposition parties, not a member of the government (the administration). It follows the same legislative process as a government bill, although less time is allocated for debate.

Very few private member’s bills become law. However, C-440 has the support of all three opposition parties, which is very unusual. It stands a better chance of passing than most private member’s bills.

Why is the private member’s bill being brought?

Despite two motions already passed in Parliament asking the government to stop deportation proceedings and allow US Iraq War resisters to remain in Canada, Prime Minister Stephen Harper has completely ignored the will of Parliament – and a majority of Canadians.

Hasn’t Parliament has already voted to allow war resisters to stay in Canada?

On June 3, 2008, Parliament passed a motion (137-110) calling on the Harper government to immediately cease all deportation proceedings and to allow war resisters to stay in Canada with their families and begin the process of becoming permanent residents.

That motion was affirmed and passed again on March 30, 2009.

In between those two motion, Stephen Harper’s Conservative party gained more seats in Parliament. The second motion passed by a vote of 129-125.

So why do you still need a bill?

The two motions, while passed by a majority of the House of Commons, were non-binding. They do not have the force of law – and the sitting government (even a minority government) can choose to ignore them.

In April 2005, while he was the leader of the opposition (that is, before he was Prime Minister), Stephen Harper stated: “The Prime Minister has the moral obligation to respect the will of Parliament.” Now that he is Prime Minister, that “moral obligation” has vanished.

Thus we must work to pass a private member’s bill giving legal weight to the two previous Parliamentary motions.

How does the Canadian public feel about war resisters?

Canadians overwhelmingly oppose the war in Iraq and they oppose sending young men and women to jail for refusing to participate in it. An Angus Reid poll from June 2008 shows that 64% of Canadians want U.S. Iraq war resisters to stay.

Where in the legislative process is Bill C-440?

Bill C-440 was introduced by Liberal MP Gerard Kennedy in September 2009. The second reading of the bill was held on May 25, 2010, followed by an hour of debate in Parliament.

Another hour of debate is scheduled for Monday, September 27, 2010, and we anticipate a House of Commons vote a few days later. Because all three opposition parties strongly support C-440, if every member of Parliament shows up for the vote, it will pass.

The War Resisters Support Campaign is working with Mr. Kennedy to ensure that every opposition Member of Parliament shows up to vote!

Then what happens?

If the bill passes second reading, it would then “go to committee” – be submitted to the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration. We believe a majority of committee members support the bill.

And then does it become law?

Not yet. There is a third reading, considered more perfunctory than the previous two. The bill is then forwarded to the Governor General for “royal assent” – and then it becomes law.

What happens to the war resisters during this long process?

Until a law allowing all Iraq War resisters to stay in Canada is passed, the War Resisters Support Campaign must fight for each war resister on a case-by-case basis. Since 2004, this has involved a long, complicated, expensive battle through the Immigration and Refugee system and a series of court appeals.

To date, two war resisters have been deported by the Harper government. Robin Long was sentenced to 15 months in military prison, and Cliff Cornell served 12 months. Another deported war resister, Rodney Watson, took sanctuary in a church in Vancouver, where he remains.

Other war resisters, after living under the threat of deportation for months or years, voluntarily surrendered to the U.S. military and were also given prison sentences.

All the other war resister cases remain in progress.

+ + + + +

Bill C-440, An Act to amend the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (war resisters)

Her Majesty, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate and House of Commons of Canada, enacts as follows:

1. Section 25 of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act is amended by adding the following after subsection (1):

War resisters

(1.1) A foreign national in Canada shall be deemed to be in a situation in which humanitarian and compassionate considerations justify the granting of permanent resident status to that foreign national — and his or her immediate family — or shall be exempted by the Minister from any legal obligation applicable to that foreign national — or his or her immediate family — that would prevent them from being allowed to remain in Canada, if that foreign national

(a) left the armed forces of his or her former country of habitual residence or refused obligatory military service in that country because of a moral, political or religious objection to avoid participating in an armed conflict not sanctioned by the United Nations;

(b) is subject to stop-loss orders to report for active duty; or

(c) upon return to the former country of his or her habitual residence, could be compelled to return to service.

2. Section 50 of the Act is amended by adding the following after paragraph (a):

(a.1) until a decision is made on the permanent resident status of the foreign national referred to in subsection 25(1.1) and his or her immediate family;

-thanks to Allan Wood for the summary.


  1. Sorry. I don't agree. These folks voluntarily signed on to serve the U.S.A. In exchange they receive money, educational and housing opportunities, etc. They have a LEGAL contract! It has cost the U.S. military plenty to train them.
    I am not without sympathy. I dated an American who came north during the Vietnam war. But there is no conscription (draft) now so these folks have to face their legal responsibilities. Canada cannot interfere and should not interfere. The average jail-time, if given, is approx. 18 months. Time to face the music and send them home.

  2. Of the approx 50,000 Vietnam war resisters who came to Canada in the 1960s and 1970s, about 10,000 of them had VOLUNTEERED for service then DESERTED.

    In addition, many of the Iraq War resisters served their entire tour of duty and then were involuntarily re-upped through the "stop-loss" program. How can that be considered voluntary?

    And what's more, if someone signed up to "protect and defend the US Constitution" then finds themselves being ordered to comment war crimes against a civilian population, what would you have them do? Should they rape, torture and murder, then say, "I was under orders"?

    Jail time is the least of it. A dishonourable discharge is a life sentence - no education loans, no mortgage, no jobs.

    And why should anyone do jail time for refusing to kill innocent civilians?

    A legal contract is more important than life and human rights? The "legal contract" was made by the US military to protect its own interests. There are many things more important.

  3. And by the way, the education and training they get is only good in the military. They are treated like shit, then come out of the service with no transferable skills, nothing but PTSD and maybe a prosthetic or two to show for all their training.

  4. Jan:

    Acually, many of them fulfilled the contracts they had signed. But after they had been discharged and gone back to civilian life, the US military demanded that they serve *more* years than they had agreed to -- and that was when they decided to flee their country.

    The US military admits that at least 15,000 soldiers have been "stop-lossed". Assuming that is a conservative estimate, that means roughly 1 out of every 10 troops in Iraq and Afghanistan are being made to serve against their will.

    Also, it is a well-established part of international law -- which the US supposedly adheres to -- that if a soldier is asked to do things which he or she believes are against international law, it is duty to REFUSE those orders. Thus, by refusing to terrorize innocent people, by refusing to torture and murder them, by saying NO and coming to Canada, these men and woman are actually OBEYING international law.

    And since when is your signature on a piece of paper more important than saying you will not kill little kids and innocent men and women? ... Think about that for a minute. .. You are sdaying a "LEGAL contract" ismore important than saying no to murder? Does that *really* make sense to you?

    Plus there is no way the military contract would stand up as legal in a non-military court of law. The soldier has no rights whatsoever and the military can change the terms of the contract at any time to whatever they want. Yeah, that sounds legal.

    Also: when men and women get married, they vow to stay together "until death". Yet many couples get divorced. Maybe we should demand they obey the marriage contract they signed and stay together and face the music for the rest of their lives, no matter what.

    Finally, the jail sentence they receive is the least of it. The dishonorable discharge is the equivalent of a felony/criminal record. No student loans, no good jobs. They are basically screwed for life -- for refusing to kill innocent people.