Canadian immigration officials told to flag U.S. war resisters
Nicholas Keung, Immigration Reporter
Published On Tue Aug 03 2010
Canadian immigration officials have been told to flag American war resisters who seek asylum or apply for permanent residence for further scrutiny.
In its new operational guide, Citizenship and Immigration Canada said these individuals could be criminally inadmissible because desertion is an offence in Canada under the National Defence Act, which carries a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.
Critics say the directives timing was suspicious, given a July 6 Federal Court of Appeal decision in favour of American soldier Jeremy Hinzman, whose family had been rejected permanent residence under humanitarian and compassionate grounds. The court ordered a reconsideration of Hinzmans application.
Hinzman, an army paratrooper, fled to Canada in 2004 because he was morally opposed to the Iraq invasion and was the first to apply for refugee status, which was ultimately refused. About 50 U.S. war resisters have since applied for permanent residence in Canada, either under spousal sponsorships or on humanitarian grounds.
The directive precedes the second reading, in September, of Bill C-440, a private members bill that would cease deportation of U.S. Iraq War resisters and create a program to give them landed status if they can get medical and criminal clearances.
Two motions seeking the same thing were adopted by the House of Commons in 2008 and 2009, but have been ignored by the Stephen Harper government.
The Conservative government is grasping at straws to thwart the will of Canadians and of Parliament, said Michelle Robidoux, of the War Resisters Support Campaign. When they dont get their way in Parliament, in public opinion or in the courts, they resort to political interference.
Immigration lawyer Alyssa Manning, who has represented 20 war resisters, said Immigration Minister Jason Kenney must take a neutral, hands-off approach.
This directive could cause significant delay in the processing of war resister applications . . . . It applies not only to potential refugee claims, but also spousal sponsorships and applications to remain in Canada based on humanitarian grounds, said Manning, adding that her clients will be further thwarted by being branded as criminals by immigration officials.
Immigration spokesperson Doug Kellam said the department updates its operational guidelines regularly as a tool to assist staff in the administration of the law.
Its not telling them how to decide things. The department will never do that. What it does do is ask them to alert the organization when they come across these cases, said Kellam, adding that the department is still reviewing the recent appeal court decision.
Chiding the Conservative Party for politicizing the immigration department, opposition politicians are calling on Ottawa to withdraw the prejudicial directive.
Im deeply troubled that the government doesnt play fair, said Liberal MP Gerard Kennedy (Parkdale-High Park), who tabled Bill C-440. Once again the immigration minister is unfairly pre-judging war resisters.