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—