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.
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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):
(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.