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MCC supports U.S. war resisters remaining in Canada

Gladys Terichow
July 8, 2008

WINNIPEG, MAN—A lunchtime prayer vigil will take place at the Canadian Mennonite University July 10 in support of Iraq War resister Corey Glass and up to 200 other U.S. soldiers seeking refugee status in Canada.

This public prayer vigil supports a campaign that urges the Canadian government to allow U.S. war resisters and immediate family members to settle in Canada as permanent residents and to halt deportation actions against them.

The vigil, organized by the Christian Peacemaker Teams, Mennonite Central Committee Canada (MCCC), and Mennonite Church Canada, is held in conjunction with Mennonite Church’s Annual Assembly and People’s Summit.

“Mennonite people have a history of conscientious objection to war,” said Esther Epp-Tiessen, peace program co-coordinator for MCCC. “We have benefitted from Canada’s conscientious objector provisions and we want others to benefit from similar protection.”

Glass is a U.S. National Guard member who served in Iraq for five months in 2005, and fled to Canada after going home on a two-week leave. His deportation date has been set for July 10. If he is deported he will be the first Iraq War resister to be deported from Canada.

Most U.S. conscientious objectors seeking asylum in Canada are young men who have served in military missions in Iraq.

“They signed up voluntarily, but in reality, it is poverty that drives many to sign up,” explained Epp-Tiessen. “Most of them do not have church, community or family support when they make the decision to leave military service. They come to this conviction on their own—that is a pretty big step to take. It takes a lot of courage to go against the stream.”

Thousands of draft dodgers found refuge Canada in the 1960s during the Vietnam War but immigration laws have changed. “Fleeing soldiers have tried to apply for refugee status but to date, nobody has been given permanent residency,” said Epp-Tiessen.

MCCC is part of a coalition of Canadian faith communities that is asking the Canadian government to respect the will of the Canadian people by supporting a motion passed by the Canadian Parliament June 3, 2008 to let U.S. conscientious objectors stay in Canada. Recent polls also indicate that nearly two in three Canadians want the government to allow them to stay in Canada.

MCCC has supported the coalition through making a presentation to a House of Commons’ Committee on Citizenship and Immigration in December 2007 and participating in letter-writing campaigns.

Epp-Tiessen said the coalition welcomes the decision of a Federal Court which ruled in early July that the Immigration and Refugee Board reconsider the failed refugee claim of Joshua Key, a U.S. soldier who took part in the war in Iraq.