U.S. Army Deserter Faces Expulsion From Canada

US army deserter faces expulsion from Canada

Dan Glaister in Los Angeles
The Guardian
Wednesday June 11 2008

A former US national guardsman will learn next month whether he can remain in Canada, where he has sought refuge from military service in Iraq.

If a deportation order against him is not lifted, Corey Glass will become the first US army deserter to be repatriated from Canada to the US. Once home, he could face anything from a dishonourable discharge to time in a military prison.

The former soldier was initially ordered to leave the country by tomorrow, but his departure date was extended yesterday to July 10, after an appeal by his lawyer was approved. He said: “I feel like things are maybe going to turn around for the best. People are working really hard on this.”

Glass is the most visible face of a movement that pits Canada's humanitarian tradition of accepting asylum seekers and refugees against the country's conservative government.

He came to Canada in August 2006. He had joined the national guard in 2002, hoping to carry out humanitarian and disaster relief work, but was instead deployed to Iraq in 2005 to work as a military intelligence officer north of Baghdad.

After telling his commanding officer that he couldn't continue fighting in a war he didn't believe in, Glass was sent home for two weeks. But instead of rejoining his unit, Glass deserted, arriving eight months later in Toronto at a centre for war resisters run by a 63-year-old who went to Canada from the US to escape the Vietnam war draft.

Last week, Canada's House of Commons passed a non-binding resolution urging the government to allow deserters – or war resisters as many prefer to be called – to stay. The resolution was inspired by the plight of Glass and about 40 others who have applied for refugee status. There are thought to be 200 deserters from the US military living in Canada.

But the government argues that Glass and the others did not exhaust legal alternatives in the US and have not made a case that they face persecution should they return home. It has also argued that those fleeing to Canada now are in a different situation to those who came during the Vietnam war. “Those coming to Canada now volunteered for military service,” said citizenship and immigration spokesperson Danielle Norris.

But Glass argues that he was not aware he was volunteering to fight in a war. “When I joined the national guard, they told me the only way I would be in combat was if there were troops occupying the US,” he said. “I signed up to … do humanitarian work, filling sandbags if there was a hurricane … I should have been in New Orleans, not Iraq.”

Opposition MP Olivia Chow, who introduced a motion calling on the government to allow Glass and others to stay, said: “The government had to listen, even though they didn't want to in the beginning,” she said. “Canadian values haven't changed that much in terms of we are a peaceful country and we want to allow people that would be deported to jail to stay in Canada.”

But the citizenship and immigration minister, Diane Finlay, said Stephen Harper's administration would not be swayed by emotional pleas. “The emotion in the House does not change the law in the country.”