By Raheemah Atif
Islamic Post Staff Writer
“Canada, I am here with you – take the time and the heart to understand what I am now fighting for, with words, and not a gun,” former PFC Kimberly Rivera
The above statement was posted on the MSN blog of Kimberly Rivera, a former U.S. soldier who fled to Canada with her husband and three children seeking asylum from continued military duty after serving one tour of duty in Iraq. “I am a pacifist,” Ms. Rivera contends on her website. Rivera now faces possible prosecution by the United States Army on charges of desertion for her refusal to serve a second tour of duty in Iraq, and subsequent flight to Canada – an offense punishable by five years imprisonment, dishonorable discharge, and loss of all pay and benefits. The Canadian government has ordered Rivera to be deported, after reconsidering its more lenient policy to grant political asylum to U.S. military deserters.
Toronto Star news reports cited Canadian Immigration Minister Jason Kenny as defending the policy of his government that distinguishes individuals who “dodge” or avoid the obligatory military draft, a prevalent practice of young men during the Vietnam War era, from people who actually joined the U.S. military of their own volition, and later defected. While the Canadian government maintained an indulgent position with the former, its stance against deserters is much less sympathetic.
Despite the June 2008 resolution passed by the Canadian House of Commons that would grant refuge in their land to military deserters who fled the U.S. in order to avoid fighting in the Iraq War, the minority Conservative party consensus did not acknowledge the non-binding decision. University of Pittsburgh Law School website Jurist reports that the Supreme Court of Canada refused the petition of two U.S. military deserters to seek asylum there; while a third deserter who was denied asylum in Canada was sentenced to 15 months in prison, demotion, and dishonorable discharge by a military judge in Colorado. What do the citizens of Canada themselves think of accepting U.S. military Iraq War deserters into their country? A survey conducted this past summer by Angus Reid Strategies in Vancouver revealed that 64% , or three of five Canadians agreed to permit U.S. soldiers permanent asylum and residency in their country.
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