During the period of 1965-1973, more than 50,000 Americans made their way to Canada, refusing to participate in an immoral war. At the time, Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau said: "Those who make a conscientious judgment that they must not participate in this war... have my complete sympathy, and indeed our political approach has been to give them access to Canada. Canada should be a refuge from militarism."
Thirty years later, Canada is faced with the same moral choice – to give refuge to those who refuse to be complicit in the US-led war on Iraq, which many legal opinions have deemed illegal under international law.
In January of 2004, Jeremy Hinzman, a soldier in 82nd Airborne Division, made his way to Canada seeking refugee status with his wife, Nga, and son, Liam. Brandon Hughey arrived in March 2004, and David Sanders surfaced in Toronto in May 2004. Since then, a growing number of American soldiers and their families have made the decision to seek sanctuary in Canada.
In December 2004, the Canadian government intervened in Jeremy Hinzman’s hearing before Canada’s Immigration and Refugee Board, asserting that the legality of the war had no relevance to his claim. The refugee hearing officer accepted the government’s argument. This decision fails to acknowledge a critical moment in 20th Century world history.
Following the Second World War, the Nuremberg Tribunal set out important principles of international law. Those principles established that soldiers have a moral duty, not a choice, to refuse to carry out illegal orders.
Jeremy Hinzman is appealing the Refugee Board decision to a Federal Court, where he is hopeful that international law will be given a proper hearing. But regardless of the decision of the refugee board or the courts, Canada should not punish US war objectors for exercising their conscience and refusing to fight. If they are returned to the United States, they face court martial before a military tribunal and years in prison. Even the death penalty remains on the books in the U.S. as a possible punishment for desertion during wartime. Canada must not facilitate the persecution of American war objectors by returning them to the United States.
The majority of Canadians did not support this war. The Canadian government did not support this war.
We, the undersigned, call on the Canadian government to demonstrate its commitment to international law and the treaties to which it is a signatory, by making provision for US war objectors to have sanctuary in this country.