Thursday, September 6, 2012

Support the Riveras, stop the deportation of war resisters


The Harper government is trying to deport US Iraq War resister Kimberly Rivera and her family September 20, the start of a renewed campaign against war resisters that undermines international law and Canadian democracy. But there is a campaign to support the Riveras and stop the deportations.

With massive demonstrations against the looming Iraq War in 2003, the Canadian government refused to participate—and Prime Minister Harper  admitted the war was “absolutely an error.” Recently Archbishop Desmond Tutu called for Bush and Blair to be tried for war crimes for a war that "has destabilized and polarized the world to a greater extent than any other conflict in history."


Under international law soldiers have the right to refuse participation in illegal conflicts such as Iraq, and the Nuremburg principles call on soldiers to refuse participation in such wars. During the Vietnam War, Canada welcomed US war resisters—both volunteers and conscripts—and resisters from the Iraq War have been coming to Canada since 2004. US veteran Kimberly Rivera left the Iraq War after experiencing the terrifying impact of the war on children. She came to Canada in 2007—becoming the first female US Iraq War resister—and lives in Toronto with her husband Mario and four children (Christian, Rebecca, Katie and Gabriel).

US Iraq War resisters have the support of the majority of Canadians—including human rights groups, student and labour unions, community and faith groups, environmentalists, authors and artists. This mass support has been reflected in two Parliamentary motions calling on the government to stop the deportations and to let war resisters stay.

Minister of Censorship and Deportation
Despite international law, Canadian tradition and democracy, and Harper's own statements against the Iraq War, the Harper government has deported war resisters to US prison—including Robin Long (who was separated from his family) and Cliff Cornell, who both received harsh jail sentences for speaking out against the war. According to Cliff’s lawyer, “because he spoke out against the Iraq war, Cliff's sentence is harsher than the punishment given to 94 percent of deserters who are not penalized but administratively discharged.” Threatened with a similar fate of being separated from his family and jailed for following his conscience and international law, resister Rodney Watson has been living in sanctuary since 2009.

Immigration Minister Jason Kenney, an early supporter of the Iraq War, has gone out of his way to try to deport war resisters. When the Rivera family was threatened with deportation in 2009, Kenney called war resisters “bogus refugee claimants.” This was not about supporting other refugees, as Kenney's cruel cuts to refugee health have since made clear. As the Canadian Council for Refugees wrote in an open letter: “It is highly inappropriate for you to express your opinions on how you believe IRB (Immigration and Refugee Board) members should make refugee determinations. To do so gives the strong appearance of political interference. Public comments such as yours only make IRB members’ jobs more difficult and threaten claimants’ rights to an unbiased decision…The Canadian Council for Refugees supports all war resisters from any country who refuse to engage in armed conflict that is contrary to international humanitarian law.” 

Kenney dodged responsibility for his campaign against war resisters when questioned in publicThankfully an emergency stay of removal was granted to the Riveras last time, and since 2008 there have been 10 federal court or federal court of appeal decisions in favour of war resisters.

Kenney has since amplified his intervention against war resisters by issuing Operational Bulletin 202, instructing immigration officials to flag US Iraq War resisters as “criminally inadmissible” (as opposed to criminal Conrad Black). In response, Amnesty International and Peter Showler (former Chair of Canada’s Immigration and Refugee Board) called on Kenney to rescind Operational Bulletin 202 because it “misstates the law and seeks to intrude on the independence of both IRB members and Immigration Officers.” 

Now there is a renewed offensive against war resisters beginning with the Riveras, who—before even receiving the decision on their application to stay on humanitarian and compassionate grounds—were given a deportation date of September 20. 

Support the Riveras, stop the deportation of war resisters
Last night's community meeting in Parkdale, where the Riveras and other war resisters live, spilled out into the streets as people marched to show their support for war resisters. We have two weeks to amplify the campaign to stop the September 20 deportation of Kimberly Rivera and her family, and to reaffirm that she was right--and so were we--to say no to the Iraq War.

*Ask Immigration Minister Jason Kenney to stop the deportation: call 613-954-1064, email minister@cic.gc.ca or send this online letter.

*Contribute to the urgent appeal for funds.

*Friday September 14, 4:30-6pm will be a Canada-wide day of petitioning and leafletting. People in Toronto can meet at three locations: Carrot Common on Danforth ave, Trinity St. Paul Centre (427 Bloor St West, near Spadina), and Queen St. West and Dunn (Parkdale). Information from other cities will soon be available.

* Wednesday September 19, 4:30-6pm, there will be a peaceful demonstration outside the Federal Court Building at 180 Queen St. West, Toronto, to call on Kenney to stop the deportation of the Riveras.

*Follow the campaign for updates: www.resisters.ca

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