October 18, 2010

OTTAWA – Liberal MP Gerard Kennedy plans to continue helping American Iraq War resisters stay in Canada, even though his private member's bill was defeated Sept. 29.

"I'm looking for ways to protect the war resisters," said Kennedy after the defeat of his War Resister's Act.

Bill C-440 would have changed the Immigration Act to allow foreign nationals who left their armed forces for reasons of conscience in a war not sanctioned by the United Nations to stay in Canada on compassionate grounds.

Previously the House had passed two non-binding motions in 2008 and 2009 to allow Iraqi war resisters to stay in Canada. An Ipsos Reid poll conducted last June showed 64 per cent of Canadians support such a decision. Bill C-440, however, failed to pass by seven votes.

Kennedy said Canadians should put pressure on the immigration minister to exercise his discretion to allow resisters to stay on compassionate grounds.

MPs from the Conservative Party voted en masse against the bill. They argued it would undermine military discipline in Canada.

MP Dean Del Mastro warned Canada could become a "haven for deserters."

Before the vote, Kennedy held a news conference where several American war resisters presented their stories.

Jeremy Hinzman said he had served for three years with the American military in Afghanistan. Twice he had applied for conscientious objector status. He was given orders to go to Iraq.

"I felt I would do a disservice to my fellow soldiers if I was unwilling to shoot to kill," he said. He said the Iraq War was "waged on false pretences."

Kennedy pointed out that many who have resisted the Iraq War had signed up for the National Guard intending to serve only inside the United States. Others were subject to compulsion because of shortages in personnel.