An Act to amend the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (war resisters)

This bill was last introduced in the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session, which ended in March 2011.

This bill was previously introduced in the 40th Parliament, 2nd Session.

Sponsor

Gerard Kennedy  Liberal

Introduced as a private member’s bill. (These don’t often become law.)

Status

Introduced, as of Sept. 17, 2009
(This bill did not become law.)

Summary

This is from the published bill. The Library of Parliament often publishes better independent summaries.

This enactment allows foreign nationals who, based on a moral, political or religious objection, left the armed forces of another country to avoid participating in an armed conflict not sanctioned by the United Nations or refused compulsory military service for that reason, and who are in Canada, to remain in this country through humanitarian and compassionate consideration.

Elsewhere

All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, provided by the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

Votes

Sept. 29, 2010 Failed That the Bill be now read a second time and referred to the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration.

Immigration and Refugee Protection ActPrivate Members' Business

September 27th, 2010 / 11 a.m.
See context

St. Catharines Ontario

Conservative

Rick Dykstra ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration

Mr. Speaker, I stand today to continue the government's response to Bill C-440, which calls for amendments to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, which I will refer to as IRPA, to require the granting of permanent residence status in Canada on humanitarian and compassionate grounds to war resisters.

The government opposes the measures proposed in Bill C-440 for several reasons. Based on how the bill is currently written, Citizenship and Immigration Canada officials have advised that military deserters could be granted permanent residence in Canada despite being inadmissible for war crimes, crimes against humanity, security, or for serious criminality based on offences such as sexual assault or murder.

Immigration officials and officers would be powerless to refuse a war deserter application even if they were concerned that the applicant had been involved with such serious matters as I have outlined. It could leave Canada unable to stop foreign criminals from remaining in Canada if they happened to be military deserters.

The bill would force the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism and officials acting under his delegated authority to grant permanent residence to people who might otherwise be inadmissible. In worst cases, this could oblige Canada to allow military deserters into this country who might also be criminals and whose claims would be normally rejected outright to ensure the safety and security of Canadians.

Worse still, it could prevent us from deporting those already here who may in the future be required to serve in their country's armed forces.

In addition to these safety and security implications, the bill proposes staying the removal of applicants until a decision on permanent residence is made.

Currently, stays of removal for particular groups are only put into effect when there is a general risk associated with a particular country or place. Providing an automatic stay of removal without any evaluation of merit is open to abuse by non-genuine applicants who are subject to removal and wish to remain in Canada. Every citizen of a country with conscription who is illegally in Canada would actually be able to have the removal stayed.

As a result, the bill risks the safety and security of Canadians.

As noted earlier, Bill C-440 also goes against some of the laws and principles that govern Canada's own military. It is incompatible with Canada's code of service discipline as set out in the National Defence Act. This code is the basis of the Canadian Forces military justice system and is designed to assist military commanders in maintaining discipline, efficiency and morale within our own forces.

The code deems desertion by a member of the Canadian Forces to be a punishable offence in Canada. This would apply if a forces member refused a lawful order to participate in an armed conflict not sanctioned by the United Nations.

As a result, if the bill were implemented, Canadian soldiers would be punished for desertion while foreign nationals, such as military deserters from the United States, would be welcomed to Canada. The Liberals would continue to treat Canadian deserters as criminals but would welcome American, Israeli and Iranian deserters as heroes.

Worse still, implicit in the rationale for the bill is the assumption that U.S. military practices are somehow unjust; or to put it another way, the Liberal Party is accusing the government of President Barack Obama of persecuting American citizens who are war deserters. This is a claim that even though is popular among the rabble and “no one is illegal set” has been rejected by the independent and arm's-length Immigration and Refugee Board at every instance.

As drafted, there are no amendments to Bill C-440 that would address the government's concerns. The bill is fatally flawed.

I would submit that our current immigration system is more balanced and already provides protection to individuals who are from countries where military desertion or refusal to participate in an armed conflict when the circumstances warrant.

In summary, Bill C-440 presents significant risks to our immigration and refugee system, as well as the general safety and security of all Canadians. Based on this, I would strongly encourage my hon. colleagues in the House to vote against the bill.

Immigration and Refugee Protection ActPrivate Members' Business

September 27th, 2010 / 11:05 a.m.
See context

NDP

Libby Davies NDP Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am very happy to speak in support of Bill C-440, as other of my colleagues from the New Democratic Party have done.

First of all, I would like to congratulate the member for Parkdale—High Park for bringing forward this bill. It is a very important measure.

I am very disturbed to hear the comments from the parliamentary secretary and to hear the member completely dis the bill and the genuine and humanitarian intent that is contained within it. I think the member and the government are obviously fearmongering.

It was very interesting to hear the parliamentary secretary say that it is popular among the rabble. I am not sure who he means. This bill has very broad support right across the country from significant organizations, from faith communities, from the war resisters support network, from many organizations. It is very disturbing that the government would undermine the bill and its intent in that way.

We are debating the bill at second reading stage. If the bill passed this critical vote on Wednesday, it would go to committee where there could be further examination. It would be perfectly in order to raise any of the issues and concerns the government has at the committee and to have a response and amendments, if necessary. However, to want to kill the bill at this point is very unfortunate and something with which we certainly do not agree.

I do want to speak about this issue because one of the war resisters, Rodney Watson, is actually in sanctuary in my riding of Vancouver East in the First United Church. He just marked the first anniversary of his being in sanctuary. He is a 32-year-old man who came to Vancouver in November 2006. He was deployed in Iraq in 2005. He is a very courageous young man. In making the choice not to participate in the illegal war in Iraq, he made a very big life-changing decision that affected him, his family, his future. He did it as a matter of conscience, as a matter of principle, of integrity about what he felt, what he had witnessed, what he had experienced in Iraq.

He chose to come to this country. Many Canadians have welcomed this young man. In fact, the War Resisters Support Campaign and network across the country has been unbelievable in its tremendous volunteer effort in supporting the 300 or so war resisters in Canada. Probably about 40 of them are engaged in various legal campaigns around their status here in Canada.

The bill before us would allow someone like Rodney to apply for permanent resident status. We have to think of this in a historical context. It was not that long ago that Canada welcomed about 80,000 draft dodgers, war resisters from the Vietnam war. They came to this country and are now very much a part of the Canadian society, the Canadian fabric. They became doctors, lawyers, professors, workers of varying kinds. They are people who have contributed to Canadian society and Canada is the better for their contribution.

Here we are 40 years later and we see that the war resisters are fighting a tremendous battle to have their conscience respected, to find a way that they can make a humanitarian option for leaving the military. I support the bill and I know my colleagues support it because we believe there has to be a way within the system to accommodate these war resisters who are people of conscience. I hope very much that within the House there will be a majority vote that will allow the bill to go to committee.

I want to thank all of the folks at the War Resisters Support Campaign and network, people like Sarah Bjorknas, who has done outstanding work; people like Reverend Ric Matthews who is the minister of mission and community life at First United Church. This church has opened up its space, its mission to welcome this young man, Rodney Watson, his wife and his young son, Jordan. They are currently involved in an application but I know they are hoping that the bill will be supported.

It is like a beacon of hope for all of the people involved that we are debating this issue in Parliament and that we are trying to find a way forward to ensure that this young man can remain in this country, and others like him who have made this very courageous decision.

When the Conservative members play this politics of fear and put out misinformation that this bill would undermine the whole citizenship and immigration system and put Canadians at risk, which is what we heard the parliamentary secretary say, nothing could be further from the truth.

In fact, what we do know is that all of the usual procedures that are within our system would still be in place. What we are trying to do is to find a humanitarian way, an objective way and a good way of allowing these war resisters to remain in our country so issues around criminality, which are issues that are usually dealt with within the system, nothing would be different here.

It is very disturbing that the government would kind of play on those fears and undermine this very genuine attempt by a majority of members of the House to find a way for war resisters to remain in this country.

I do note that a motion expressing that sentiment was passed in Parliament by a strong majority, and I think it is shared by a vast majority of Canadians. These war resisters pose no threat to our country. They are people of conscience who have chosen a way of peace rather than participating in a horrific experience. These are people who want to contribute to Canadian society and be members of our greater community.

I know that personally, having visited Rodney Watson in Vancouver a number of times. I have talked with him and have met his wife. I attended his marriage at the First United Church where he has been in sanctuary. We must remember that this young man cannot go outside of this building. He cannot see his son play in a park, nor can he take a walk down the street. He is very happy that the First United Church has offered him sanctuary, which is a time-honoured tradition to have sanctuary, but it has placed his life in a very difficult circumstance.

I and others are very hopeful that the bill will pass second reading, go to the committee where it will be objectively discussed and maybe there will be improvements that are brought forward, which is all in the realm of possibility, then it will come back to this House and be passed. This would give hope to the war resisters that Canada is still a place of refuge, a place of welcome, a place where people of conscience can seek refuge and a place where they can go through a proper process instead of having all of their hopes dashed, as I think the government would like to see.

I wholeheartedly support this bill and urge all members of the House to support it. It would reinforce the reputation Canada has had over many years as being a place of compassion and a place where people, on humanitarian grounds, can be welcomed and protected. That is what we would like to see with this bill and this is what the bill would make possible, not only for Rodney Watson and the situation he is in, but for the many others who are in a similar situation.

Immigration and Refugee Protection ActPrivate Members' Business

September 27th, 2010 / 11:25 a.m.
See context

Peterborough Ontario

Conservative

Dean Del Mastro ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Canadian Heritage

Mr. Speaker, as said previously by my colleagues, the government objects to Bill C-440 and urges all members of the House to vote against it.

I will continue the government's response to the bill by addressing the effect it could have on military lives and relations.

Canadians love and value their freedom. We have a proud military tradition that proves we are willing to make the sacrifices necessary to protect it. Some 600,000 Canadians served in the first and second world wars. Over 100,000 Canadians gave their lives for our freedom and the freedom of others. We remember these sacrifices each year on Remembrance Day, November 11, one of the most important days on the Canadian calendar.

In Afghanistan the brave men and women of the Canadian Forces are carrying on this tradition. Over 140 members have made the supreme sacrifice to bring freedom and security to Afghanistan and prevent the country from serving again as a base for global terrorism.

When the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism speaks to new citizens, he sometimes talks about the need to meet obligations to family and community. He often cites Canada's military tradition as an example of how citizens have met these very obligations. However, to properly honour this past we must oppose the bill because it could pose challenges for some of the principles that apply to our military.

The bill would let military deserters from any country participating in an armed conflict not sanctioned by the United Nations stay in Canada on humanitarian and compassionate grounds. It proposes to allow those individuals to remain in Canada based on a moral, political or religious objection. It would allow those subject to compulsory military service to refuse to return to service in their country of nationality. It proposes that the government would stay the removal for these applications until a decision on permanent residence for the individuals could be made.

As drafted, Bill C-440 is incompatible with Canada's Code of Service Discipline, as set out in the National Defence Act. The code is the basis of the Canadian Forces military justice system and is designed to assist military commanders in ensuring that the forces remain disciplined, efficient and motivated.

The Code of Service Discipline provides that desertion by a member of the Canadian Forces or failure to obey a lawful command of a superior officer are both punishable offences in Canada. These offences would apply in a situation where a Canadian Forces member refused a lawful order to participate in an armed conflict not sanctioned by the United Nations.

This is, however, the very same conduct that Bill C-440 seeks to use as grounds for granting foreign nationals permanent residence. As a result, Canada could become a haven for military personnel who commit acts for which members of the Canadian Forces would be subject to punishment. The Liberal Party wants to treat Canadian deserters as criminals, but American, Israeli and Iranian deserters as heroes.

The provisions in Bill C-440 also extend beyond those persons refusing to participate in an unsanctioned armed conflict.

The bill seeks to grant permanent residence to individuals who, upon return to their country of origin, may be compelled to serve in the military. This provision is overly broad as obligatory military service is practised in many countries, including Israel, Germany and Denmark, countries which are both democracies and close allies of Canada. If Bill C-440 were made law in Canada, it could apply to all former military personnel from such countries.

Passage of the bill will send an implicit signal that Canada condemns the practices of our allies and could establish Canada as a safe haven for individuals seeking to circumvent those practices. This, when dozens of countries around the world have either obligatory military service, a combination of obligatory and voluntary military service or voluntary systems that rely on obligatory service in emergency situations.

Bill C-440 proposes that refusing to participate in an armed conflict not sanctioned by the United Nations should be grounds for granting permanent resident status. It has, however, not been common practice for the Security Council to sanction international armed conflicts. The UN is more commonly silent on the status of a conflict. As such, the bill would cover a large range of conflicts worldwide.

Thus, by allowing all military deserters who are seeking to avoid participation in armed conflict not sanctioned by the United Nations to be provided special treatment, the provision could apply to conflicts that the international community, the Canadian government and/or Canadians deem to be legitimate.

Furthermore, a decision by the Government of Canada to resort to force is reserved to the executive and not subject to review by Canadian courts. Scrutiny by a Canadian court of a foreign government's decision to resort to force would therefore be unwarranted.

Given the scope of Bill C-440, the number of foreign nationals eligible to apply under these provisions could be enormous. In theory, military personnel from any country with armed forces could qualify for permanent residence in Canada. Has anyone on the opposition benches given any thought to that at all?

As I noted, the proposed amendments could also establish Canada as a haven for military personnel who commit acts such as desertion, for which the Canadian Forces would be subject to punishment. The bill as drafted contains no clear amendments to address these concerns. I would argue that our current immigration system is more balanced and provides sufficient protection to individuals facing persecution or undue hardship.

Bill C-440 risks undermining the very principles upon which Canadian soldiers take to battle, principles that are fundamental to our military's code of service discipline and to our country's military relations with other countries around the world. Given that, as has been noted earlier, the bill could undermine the government's security and enforcement agenda and the security and safety of Canadians.

Bill C-440 could pose substantial challenges for Canada. It would present risks to our immigration system, conflict with our military laws and could put at risk the general safety and security of Canadians. Based on these factors, I strongly encourage all hon. colleagues in the House to vote against Bill C-440.

I will address some additional issues that have been raised by the hon. member across the way.

The hon. member seeks to impugn the motivation of other countries that have in fact sought to defend their people who live under tyrannical regimes, dictatorships and from those who do not respect the liberty or freedoms of their own citizens. We have a great tradition in our country of standing up for those who cannot stand for themselves. Sometimes that means the government has a responsibility to make decisions that are not easy. The member seeks to impugn governments that make those decisions to take out a dictator who punishes his or her own people.

He spoke of some people that are particularly offensive. I do not want to put words in the hon. member's mouth, but he indicated that the U.S. government took out a family that was not friendly to it on oil and put in a group that was friendly to it on oil. He did not speak at all about that family, about the former President Saddam Hussein's record on human rights and the travesties that dictator imposed upon his people. He can stand in judgment of the motivations, but I really take offence to the indication that the only motivation to take this man out was to gain control of oil. Those comments are highly offensive to one of our strongest allies and friends, our U.S. neighbours.

I would also argue that there have been other cases and points in time where the United Nations has not seen fit, as I noted in my speech, to endorse a military action, but where nations of conscience have sought to go in and defend the people. We have seen many instances where the right to protect clause was not enacted by the United Nations, but where I think a lot of people on the outside looked at it and thought maybe it was an instance where it should have been. I do not think we should rely on that as our moral compass for whether or not we should go in and defend a people under a tyrannical regime where they are under threat.

As I said, the bill is very poorly drafted. The government cannot support it and I urge all opposition members to join us in our opposition to it.

Immigration and Refugee Protection ActPrivate Members' Business

September 27th, 2010 / 11:35 a.m.
See context

NDP

Irene Mathyssen NDP London—Fanshawe, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for Parkdale—High Park for bringing Bill C-440, An Act to amend the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (war resisters), to the House.

This is not the first time we have debated the issue of war resisters. A motion, first presented to Parliament on May 29, 2008, by the member for Trinity—Spadina, was based on an earlier Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration motion that called for the creation of a special government program to allow conscientious objectors, and their families, who had been refused or left military service related to a war not sanctioned by the United Nations to apply for permanent resident status.

The motion also called for the government to immediately cease any removal or deportation actions that may have already commenced against such individuals.

There are currently more than 200 Iraqi war resisters in Canada. They are either living underground or they have declared themselves in Canada. This group of men and women of all ages, ranks, family status, political affiliation, has been living and working in Canada since 2004, when the first war resister, Jeremy Hinzman, crossed the border into Canada after his U.S. conscientious objector application was denied and he ran out of other legal options. Since then, the community of resisters and community members have been determinedly fighting for the right of these young men and women to remain in Canada.

The current private member's bill supports the tradition that Canadians respect, and that is the hopes, the wishes and the conscience of those who refuse to commit human rights violations. This goes back in our history. Most of us will remember, most notably, the days of the Vietnam war in the 1960s and the mostly young men but a few young women who came here and became part of our country's fabric, who made tremendous contributions.

The 2008 motion and the subsequent motion from March 2009, again from the member for Trinity—Spadina, passed in the House.

I will tell the members a bit about our experiences of war resisters in London, Ontario.

In total about 10 war resisters have called London home over the past 5 years. London currently has three living in the community. These people are not looking for a free ride. Every one of them went out and found work as soon as they received work permits. Often they were low-paying entry jobs. These young men and women struggled to make ends meet, but they, nonetheless, worked to pay their own way. They also became active volunteers, participating in a number of community projects, including this past spring, helping to plant trees along Veterans Memorial Parkway in my riding, in memory of London's fallen soldiers.

I want to talk about one young man in particular because I think his story is important and it is important for the House to hear the story.

The young man, Josh Randall, joined the American army at age 17 because of lack of any other opportunity. He came from a very poor family. Poverty was the reality. He knew the only way he could escape that poverty for he and his future family was the offer of an education from the army. Therefore, he trained as a medic and was sent to Iraq.

One of his jobs, in addition to being a medic, being there to look after those who were wounded, was to go on night patrols. I do not know if members know much about these night patrols, but basically three or four soldiers would go into a neighbourhood. They were supposed to be searching for insurgents. They had to break into a house to do the search. They would put an explosives belt around the door and blow it in so they could gain entry. A lot of damage is caused by that kind of explosion as, in the case of these homes, most of the doors are made of wood.

At any rate, this group would plant the explosives, break into the house, and they would go from room to room to see if they could find insurgents.

On this particular night, Josh was with his group, and they did what they were supposed to do: they burst into the home and quickly made a search. There were no insurgents there, but there were three females: a young mother, her 12-year-old-daughter, and her little one, who was about three years old. Josh said that the three-year-old had been hit with splinters and the woodwork from the door. Her face and chest was covered with splinters, and she was bleeding profusely and crying desperately.

The mother knew only one word of English, and that was “girl”. She kept pointing to the child and saying, “girl”. It was clear that it was a plea for help. Because of his training, Josh immediately wanted to go to work, because he knew that the wounds were such that this child would bleed to death, and that he was the only one who could help her.

He was ordered out of the house. The sergeant said they had an obligation to get out of here and go on to the next house. He said not to worry about it, that the Red Crescent Society would come in and it will look after the child and she would be fine. Josh knew that this was not true. For this woman to get help would be impossible, because she would be leaving the child alone in her misery and her despair.

That was what convinced him that what his country was doing was wrong and he had to leave.

He had already served his tour. He came home and was terrified that he would be a victim of the stop-loss policy, that they would break the contract that he had signed and force him to go back to Iraq and continue to do the kinds of things that he simply could not do. He could not bring himself to be part of that anymore.

Josh is in London, Ontario now. He brought his young wife with him to Canada and they have a child, a little fellow who was born last May. That little one is the light of their lives, an incredible child.

I think in light of what Josh experienced, we have to be aware of what we are doing here in this place. To stand up and talk about how people will abuse the right to stay in Canada is beside the point. The point is that people came here acting on conscience, and they had real reason.

I want to read a bit of what Josh has to say. I want to put his own words on the record. He said:

I would first like to say that I am no longer a member of the United States armed forces. When I crossed the border January 3, 2008, I had little intention of crossing back over that border. I have officially and strongly resigned from a military that insists on occupying a country and ignoring the rights of the impoverished indigenous peoples. I am no longer a soldier in the U.S. army. I will never stop being a soldier. A soldier fights for the oppressed; he does not become the oppressor himself. Defending your country does not mean destroying other nations out of, or for, revenge.

It certainly does not mean invoking “my country right or wrong“ as a reason for plundering the resources of another country, as we have seen in Iraq. It is pretty clear that this war was as much about oil as it was about any indignity done to the United States.

The fact that Iraq was targeted instead of another nation when the government of the U.S. knew that Iraqis did not play a role in 9/11 leads us to be suspicious of all this.

I want to finish with a word about the reality that we face in Canada with regard to our own military: we need to support our own military as much as any of those coming in.

I will leave my remarks at that.

Immigration and Refugee Protection ActPrivate members business

May 25th, 2010 / 6:15 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Gerard Kennedy Liberal Parkdale—High Park, ON

moved that Bill C-440, An Act to amend the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (war resisters) be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to speak to a bill that requires the Conservative government to take into account the opinion of Canadians regarding the war in Iraq.

It is a bill that is very basic in its presentation to require the government to take Canadians into account on a matter that, on the face of it, might seem to only affect a relatively small number of people, perhaps 200 Americans who came to Canada looking for refuge based on their conscientious objection to the war in Iraq. Worse perhaps for some people in the House is they are people who do not even vote. They do not have a consideration in terms of whether at the next election anybody is returned to this place.

Despite the behaviour of the government to date, and we hold out hope, the bill would give all members of Parliament a chance to examine not just their consciences but their role as parliamentarians in expressing a will for Canada on important issues.

Underlying a simple law amending two parts of the Immigration Act, which would very directly provide for conscientious objectors to become permanent residents of Canada, to be eligible for wars that were not authorized by the United Nations in particular, that this would give them an ability to be considered. They would still have to meet all kinds of other criteria, and I mentioned that as I will later on, to ensure there is no distortion of what we are dealing with today.

Beyond those simple clauses, protecting them, protecting their families, ensuring they can be heard from is a bigger requirement. That bigger requirement is for this generation of Canadians to address how we feel about Canada's ability to determine who should be part of our country and how we feel not just about our traditions but about a Canadian sensibility going forward.

The bill is meant to give life to a Canadian sensibility that so far has been resisted from the government benches, certainly on the part both the minister responsible and the Prime Minister in terms of the public comments they have made.

It is essential that all Canadians have some access to this debate. It is not because it should command their attention or it should be a worry for them, but it is those quiet noises, the ones we do not ordinarily see, that are the measure of the character of a country.

All Canadians should be alert to those kinds of questions. While the Iraq war resisters from the United States may be voiceless in a classic sense, it is how we treat those kinds of individuals and classes of people that determines who we are as Canadians.

We have answered these questions before. A previous generation had not just the temerity, not a particular courage but just a sense of themselves to say to the Vietnam War resisters, those people who were volunteers in the army and decided, based on what they were asked to do and saw in that war, that they could not prosecute that. Over 10,000 of the 50,000 Vietnam War resisters who came to Canada were people serving in the military service at the time and they were accepted by a previous generation to Canada.

That was done out of a fulsome sense of what Canada was, not better, not against in terms of who we thought Americans are or were at that time, but rather who we are. We are a country of some tolerance, a country of some patience, a country willing to provide for differences in how some of these moral questions are addressed and willing to acknowledge that we in our country will have the gumption to take on those questions without trying to defer or without trying to say it is somebody else's decision.

It is our decision when people from wherever in the world present themselves to us and ask for asylum. This would allow us to address that question.

It is also necessary to keep in mind that this is a remedy because we have already addressed this question in other ways before.

In June 2008 and March 2009, the House of Commons adopted motions that we should welcome Iraq war resisters.

The question has already been discussed and by vote decided in terms of whether Canada wishes to provide a welcome availability to those types of people who want to be brought into permanent residence in our country. The difference is the government chose not only not to accept it, but to act in a way that was adversarial to their chances of being considered.

But the Conservative government rejected all of the applications. It publicly criticized the resisters, thus limiting their chance of a fair hearing. There were serious penalties for those who were repatriated to the United States.

This is not only about whether people get to become Canadian, but what should happen to them next. For those who were deported even as the debate was taking place, a few days later this chamber decided that it wished to provide a home in Canada to American Iraq war resisters. A few days later the government deported someone who subsequently received a 15 month sentence, someone who had participated in good faith.

Like all questions of principle, this basically rides on a human dimension, a human dimension of being Canadian. This is not a question of just 200 people. It is a question of giving a fair hearing to any group of people who find themselves in difficulty. This debate today is about whether or not this chamber is capable of providing that fair hearing.

Let me use as an example Chuck Wiley, one of the Iraq war resisters, who served 17 years in the American military. There may be some members of this House who believe they can speak of devotion to duty and we have some serving members who have exhibited that. I want people to consider what it was like for Mr. Wiley, who served in the navy for 17 years, and who arrived at a conscientious objection that did not permit him to serve in Iraq. I want people to consider what they know about American military sensibility and how difficult it was for him having served all those years, two years away from a pension, to walk away from his service as a matter of conscience and appeal to this country instead.

Words have been used by some of the members and ministers opposite and they invoke things like cowardice. They walk in the easy shoes of judging people without really giving full consideration to what happened in terms of an individual situation. The situation is tied to a larger perspective, the Iraq war itself.

Canadians had a perspective on the Iraq war. All we are being asked to do today with this bill is to confirm a perspective where 82% of the people of Canada oppose the war in Iraq, a perspective where the Government of Canada decided that this country did not support the war in Iraq. With all due respect to others who decided to participate and to sanction that war, we did not and neither did the United Nations Security Council. The facts about the famous weapons of mass destruction that informed that debate are available to members of this House.

Canada has spoken in that regard. It was a difficult debate. A decision was made after due consideration, and it is a decision that needs to be upheld not out of any sense of superiority but simply because we have the right to be sovereign in terms of how we look at developments in the world that engage us both ethically and morally and with the resources of this country. We made that decision.

The question for this House now is: Why in the face of that decision do we not extend some understanding to the people who appeal to us? Why does the government instead wish to impose its minority view, a view at one time that supported the war in Iraq, but a view that has changed? The Prime Minister has now said it was a mistake and he shares the same view as that held by the current President of the United States, that the Iraq war was a dumb war, that the United States should not have been involved in the first place. The Iraq war has a strong resonance for Canadians. It is something that they understand was a distinction Canada decided to make.

Some people might ask why we would entertain service personnel from another country. Would that not somehow affect us? It would not.

Different rules prevail and much of that is now recognized in the United States itself. Various hearings have been held in the U.S. which indicated that people were subject to irregularities, to conduct in terms of some of the incidents involving civilians, the Abu Ghraib prison, things that I believe this House, this country would wish the discretion for our service personnel faced with certain decisions of conscience. I believe there is faith in this House and faith in this country that Canadian soldiers would take those kinds of decisions if they were faced with them.

People who are asking for our consideration through this bill today faced a number of situations, but again many of them, like Mr. Wiley, are people who served not just a tremendous amount of time but served under a tremendous amount of difficulty. Some of them were subject to provisions that do not exist for service personnel in our country.

For example, there is the question of stop-loss. People like Phil McDowell served his time in Iraq. He served his contract. The Iraq war was being prosecuted at the time and there was a dearth of personnel. People may not realize it, but the Americans have fewer people under arms than at any time in their history. To conduct a war in Iraq required taking people and bringing them back again and again. That form of compulsion that exists is not to be found in how we deploy our service today.

The contract provisions for stop-loss have been found to be extremely difficult. The current President of the United States has asked that they be eliminated, but they were enforced particularly at the peak of the war. Phil McDowell, who served in Iraq under difficult circumstances, came back to the United States to find that the fine print in his contract required him to go back. After what he had seen, in good conscience, he could not.

That is what the House is being asked to uphold. This is how we respect some of those decisions that were made, a sensibility that in this country is every bit about endorsing a view of how we see our military operating, which is with some extreme level of decision making for individuals based on their conscience.

Those provisions exist and are available in the Canadian armed services. They were not available to many of the people like Jeremy Hinzman, who sought to be seen as conscientious objectors. Because of the difficulties and the challenges in terms of having enough personnel, for months stretching into years in terms of deployments, those provisions were not available to American service personnel.

There are distinctions that are made in how the National Guard was used and how other things were done in this war that meant there were some extraordinary circumstances faced by these personnel. That relates back to the war itself. People like Robin Long, who got 15 months in military jail, faced a very harsh outcome as a result of the government not listening to the House.

We understand there is a characteristic that some members opposite feel very comfortable with of a government that puts itself above Parliament and that is accountable to no one and to nothing. I would like to believe it will not find its way expressed in this bill. However, there is also something just as serious and that is the government putting itself above the Canadian people.

According to an Angus Reid poll conducted in 2008, nearly one-third of Canadians wanted Americans who opposed to the war in Iraq to be allowed to stay in the country.

Two-thirds, or 65%, of Canadians would like to give American resisters a chance to be citizens in this country, just as a previous generation gave to those from the Vietnam War. That may sit uncomfortably with members opposite, but it is something to be listened to. How Canadians feel on a question of conscience is something to have regard for. It needs to find expression and I am hoping that is the spirit in which this debate will be considered.

Canadians have that point of view and they look to the House to give it respect. I submit the only way for that to be given respect is to give this its expression in law.

We hear from some of the members opposite the idea that they cannot even give it consideration. Somebody said, “Not a chance”. People need a chance because this is a test.

As John F. Kennedy said, war will be less available when conscientious objectors have the same status as warriors in our society. Canada is not afraid to be a refuge against a militarism that is unthinking and that does not trade off against the rights and needs of individuals. This law will do exactly that.

Immigration and Refugee Protection ActPrivate members business

May 25th, 2010 / 6:35 p.m.
See context

Nepean—Carleton Ontario

Conservative

Pierre Poilievre ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister and to the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs

Mr. Speaker, implicit in any debate on U.S. military deserters is whether or not they are refugees, whether they face persecution.

The Liberals have said that U.S. military deserters, or as they call them, war resisters, should be granted refugee status even though the independent Immigration and Refugee Board has rejected all deserter claims as bogus.

A further question is raised as to why the Liberals are accusing the government of our friend President Barack Obama of persecuting U.S. citizens.

We feel that this bill, if enacted, would pose risks to the safety of Canadian citizens and to the laws governing our military.

Bill C-440 proposes that individuals who meet the criteria could become permanent residents by asking for humanitarian and compassionate consideration. Section (1.1) of the bill also says that military deserters:

--shall be exempted by the Minister from any legal obligation applicable to that foreign national—or his or her immediate family—that would prevent them from being allowed to remain in Canada, [for] that foreign national--

Citizenship and Immigration Canada officials have determined that, as a result of this provision, immigration officers would be powerless to refuse military deserters or a member of their family, even if they would otherwise be inadmissible for war crimes, crimes against humanity, security or--

Immigration and Refugee Protection ActPrivate members business

May 25th, 2010 / 6:35 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Pierre Poilievre Conservative Nepean—Carleton, ON

Mr. Speaker, Citizenship and Immigration Canada officials have determined and proven that, as a result of this provision, immigration officials would be powerless to refuse military deserters or a family member, even if they would otherwise be inadmissible for a war crimes, crimes against humanity or serious criminality.

To put it frankly, the bill would leave Canada unable to stop foreign criminals from remaining in Canada even if they happen to be military deserters or if they are required to serve in their country's armed forces.

Bill C-440 also goes against some other laws and principles that govern Canada's own military. The bill is also incompatible with Canada's code of service discipline as set out in the National Defence Act. This code is the basis for Canadian Forces military justice and is designed to assist military commanders in maintaining discipline, efficiency and morale within the force. The code deems that desertion by a member of the Canadian Forces is punishable as an offence in Canada. This would apply even if forces members refused a lawful order to participate in an armed conflict not sanctioned by the United Nations.

As a result, if the bill were implemented, Canadian soldiers would be punished for desertion while foreign nationals would be welcomed to Canada even after they had committed the same offence.

Under the logic of the bill, Canadians who abandon their comrades in arms would continue to be treated like criminals and Americans who do the same would be welcomed by the Liberal Party as heroes.

In fact, the member across the way has singled out the Iraq war. I would simply ask that he rise on the first occasion and explain why he has singled out only that conflict. There are conscientious Americans who believe, through conviction, that the American involvement in Afghanistan is unjust and wrong.

I happen to disagree with that particular perspective, but it is a legitimate point of view. If the hon. member were to take the logic that he has applied to the Iraq war, he would then also allow deserters from the U.S. forces who are escaping their service in Afghanistan and allow them to come here, desert their comrades in arms, and leave behind the duties that they joined the forces to undertake. They would be able to come to Canada as deserters and be given an opportunity to jump ahead of the queue and have a status as permanent residents in this country.

Would it not be ironic then if we would have members of the American forces allowed to desert from the U.S. involvement in Afghanistan, but at the same time Canadian soldiers, who if they did exactly the same thing, would be treated as criminals? That would be an incredible double standard.

I would also like to point out that this bill does a great disservice to the thousands of would be immigrants from around the world who follow the rules, who obey the law, and who come to this country, going through all of the normal steps in order to become citizens of Canada. It would be a disservice to have them pushed back in the line-up so that we could give preferential treatment, as the bill would give, to deserters of the U.S. armed forces. It would not only be an insult to our own soldiers but also be an insult to the legitimate would be immigrants from around the world who are following the rules.

The bill also seeks to grant permanent resident status to individuals who upon their return to their country of origin may be compelled to return to military service. This means that former military personnel from countries with conscription could be captured under this provision.

Citizenship and Immigration Canada researchers have found that some three dozen countries have some type of mandatory military service. This bill would throw the door wide open to anyone from those countries who could in theory eventually be forced into military service. This list includes countries such as Israel, Germany and Denmark, countries which are both democracies and close allies of Canada. If Bill C-440 were made law, it could apply to all former military personnel from these countries.

It should be noted that in the American context the United States armed forces do not have conscription, so those who sign on to join the forces do so knowing that at some point they could be called to duty and, as a result, have already made their conscientious decision to sign on for that duty at the time they join the American armed forces.

We are also concerned with the impact this bill would have on Canada's foreign relations if Canada is compelled to grant permanent residence to citizens of our allies trying to avoid obligatory military service. Passage of this bill would send an implicit signal that Canada condemns the practices of our allies and could establish Canada as a safe haven for individuals seeking to circumvent those practices.

We also object to the fact that Bill C-440 distinguishes conflicts sanctioned by the United Nations from conflicts that are not. It would be presumptuous and unprecedented to require Canadian immigration officials to pronounce on the so-called illegality of a given conflict. Furthermore, Canada and its NATO allies have in the past and reserve the right in the future to participate in military action that the United Nations may or may not have already sanctioned.

I should note that a decision by the Canadian government to resort to force is not subject to review by Canadian courts. It is a matter of high policy reserved to the executive. Scrutiny by a Canadian court or a Canadian immigration official of a foreign government's decision to resort to force would, therefore, be unwarranted and could have a negative impact on foreign relations.

Finally, Bill C-440 proposes that the government stay the removal of applicants until a decision on permanent residence for individuals could be made. This undermines the security and enforcement agenda that this government is undertaking and could be open to abuse.

I will simply point out that this government will be voting against this bill as it causes serious problems for the security of this country, and the integrity of our immigration and foreign relations systems.

Immigration and Refugee Protection ActPrivate members business

May 25th, 2010 / 7 p.m.
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Liberal

Mario Silva Liberal Davenport, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to lend my support for Bill C-440 as presented by the member for Parkdale—High Park. I am very pleased that he has advanced this bill. It will come as no surprise to members of the House that on many occasions, I have had the opportunity to speak to the importance of giving asylum to those who have engaged in the war in Iraq, and for conscientious reasons have objected to that war and asked for asylum in Canada.

The story resonates well with me, because the first war resister I had the opportunity to meet was Jeremy Hinzman, who was a constituent of mine in Davenport. Mr. Hinzman was a soldier with the 82nd Airborne Division. He applied for conscientious objector status and served one tour of duty in Afghanistan in a non-combat position. After being denied conscientious objector status, Jeremy learned that he was being deployed to Iraq. He and his wife, Nga Nguyen, and their son, Liam, came to Canada in January 2004. Their daughter Meghan was born in Toronto in the summer of 2008.

The member for Trinity—Spadina was also present at many of the meetings that I had with Jeremy Hinzman, as well as at several rallies that took place throughout Toronto with the participation of church groups, different faith groups, NGOs, civil society and labour groups. They showed solidarity for Mr. Hinzman and his family. As I said, one of his children was born in Canada.

Many of these soldiers who came to Canada to seek refugee status in fact have established themselves with their families and have children who were born in Canada. They have lived here for quite some time.

I have also had the opportunity to speak to Robin Long, who served two years as a tanker in the U.S. army. He came to Canada in July 2005 and applied for refugee status because he felt he could not participate in the war in Iraq. On July 15, 2008, the Canadian government deported Robin to the United States, where he was arrested and court martialled for desertion. Robin was sentenced to 15 months in a military prison and received a dishonourable discharge from the military. The sentence is one of the harshest handed out to U.S. Iraq war resisters.

The other war resister whom I would like to mention is Joshua Key. I would encourage all members to read his book about a soldier's story of what takes place in Iraq. It is a compelling story of what took place in that war and why he came to the conclusion that he was against the war and why he could not serve his country and made the difficult and painful decision to come to Canada.

Key was a private first class in the U.S. army. He served an eight-month tour in Iraq in 2003. What he saw in Iraq convinced him that he could not participate in the war any longer. He went AWOL and came to Canada with his family in March 2005. On July 4, 2008, the Federal Court ordered the Immigration and Refugee Board to hold a new hearing for Joshua's refugee claim. Joshua is awaiting a decision on that hearing from the Immigration and Refugee Board.

As far back as December 2008, I issued a press release. I was very concerned that on Christmas Eve of 2008, there was an order to deport Clifford Cornell in advance of the decision of the Federal Court of Canada on the appeal of the war resister Jeremy Hinzman. What concerned me was that the plan was to move Mr. Cornell the day before Christmas Day. I thought that would be incredibly painful for the family, but I think that for most Canadians, however they felt about the issue, it just did not seem right that on Christmas Eve there would be a deportation order, when the minds of Canadians were focused elsewhere. In many ways, it was designed to have as little publicity as possible and it worked.

I thought it was very tragic and sad for that to happen, and most Canadians would want the decisions to be made in a way that certainly has sentiment and feeling for that very important occasion of Christmas.

What this particular bill tries to establish is the whole idea of the Canadian government supporting people who have made a claim of conscientious objection in Canada and allowing them to stay here. This is consistent with many polls and with the views of Canadians. In fact, the majority of parliamentarians have voted twice in past Parliaments to allow them to stay in Canada. The will of Parliament, expressed in both June 2008 and March 2009, should be respected.

The House and the previous prime minister, Jean Chrétien, made what I think will be known in history and will certainly be recorded in history as one of the most courageous and righteous things ever done by any prime minister. He said no to an illegal war, a war not sanctioned by the United Nations. That was the invasion of Iraq.

Interestingly enough, Mr. Chrétien was here today for the unveiling of his portrait. We certainly wish him luck. Most of us were quite impressed with the portrait that was unveiled today.

We owe him a great deal of gratitude for the many things he has done for this country. Canadians will also remember him fondly for saying no to the war in Iraq. Many of the coalition partners at that time were, like Canada, strong allies of the U.S., but as an independent nation, we decided to take an independent stand.

We have done this throughout our history. Canada has always shown that yes, we are best friends with the U.S. Yes, Canadians love the U.S. and think very highly of its institutions, government, and people, but at the same time, as friends, we can disagree on many issues. We disagreed on the war in Iraq, but we participated in the war in Afghanistan, because it had a UN mandate, and we thought it was important to go through UN channels.

The UN is very clear that under chapter VII, article 39, the Security Council should be the only one to determine whether there is a threat to peace. There was no chapter VII, article 39 authorization for the invasion of Iraq. There was one for Afghanistan. Chapter VII was never called upon for Iraq. Of course, there is always article 51 on the inherent right to collective self-defence—

Immigration and Refugee Protection ActRoutine Proceedings

September 17th, 2009 / 10:05 a.m.
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Liberal

Gerard Kennedy Liberal Parkdale—High Park, ON

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-440, An Act to amend the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (war resisters).

Mr. Speaker, this bill is in response to the refusal of the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism to show Canadian sensibility.

This is a simple bill with a clear purpose, which would apply Canadian sensibility to the issue of war resisters in Canada. The bill would make sure that people of good conscience who leave a war that is not approved by the United Nations and who would be subject to compulsion and stop loss in their own country would be eligible to become Canadian citizens.

The bill reflects the work and the wishes of a great deal of Parliament. It basically takes the spirit of two motions that have already been passed by a majority of Parliament and puts them in the form of law that would have to be followed by the minister and the ministry of immigration and citizenship.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)