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Canada divided over US soldiers fleeing Iraq war

Approximately 50 U.S soldiers have contacted the War Resisters Support Committee for support since 2004, and no applicant for refugee…

By Cecilia Greyson , in City , on December 2, 2009

Approximately 50 U.S soldiers have contacted the War Resisters Support Committee for support since 2004, and no applicant for refugee status has been successful with their claim in recent years, said Vancouver representative Sarah Bjorknas.

In 2008, a public opinion poll showed that 64 per cent of Canadians supported permanent residency for U.S. soldiers who leave the service.  Two Parliamentary motions were also passed stating that Canada should support these refugee claims.

Related: US solider seeks sanctuary in Vancouver church

Despite this show of support, the Ministry of Immigration stands firm.  Jason Kenney, the federal Minister for Immigration, drew fire from refugee advocates last year when he stated that soldiers who “change their mind to desert” were not legitimate refugee claimants.

“I don’t appreciate people adding to the backlog” with “bogus” refugee claims, he said.

During a recent visit to Vancouver, Minister Kenney used more cautious language.

“I don’t think that politicians should be saying that one group should stay or another should go,” Kenney said. “Canada has a very generous claim process, but if someone loses at every step, then the law obliges us to ask them to leave.”

Kenney’s statement appeared to be a direct jab at Liberal and NDP politicians who have argued for leniency for U.S. soldiers.

Bill Siksay, Member of Parliament for Burnaby-Douglas who seconded a motion put before Parliament in September to allow claimants refugee status, remains optimistic about the situation.

“I live in hope,” he said. “Canada’s Parliament has already voted twice to support war resisters, and I hope that the current government will recognize this and move in the right direction.”

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