dinsdag, augustus 03, 2004

Support US war resisters

As you may know, a pair of American soldiers have escaped to Canada to avoid fighting in an illegal and imoral war.

While Canada has manifestly been a willing participant in UK and US imperialisms throughout its short history, not to mention the author of its own genocidal internal colonialism of natives and oppression of the French-speaking minority, it is true that historically Canada has offered refuge to many escaping American barbarism and war - from the Underground Railroad offering freedom to slaves in the last century to the thousands of Americans avoiding the draft during the Vietnam War.

From the War Resisters Support Campaign website:

During the period of 1965-1973 more than 50,000 draft-age Americans made their way to Canada, refusing to participate in an immoral war. At the time, Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau said: "Those who make the conscientious judgment that they must not participate in this war... have my complete sympathy, and indeed our political approach has been to give them access to Canada. Canada should be a refuge from militarism."

Once again, in the middle of another American military adventure, there are Americans who have looked northward for refuge, but this time, the Canadian government, eager to get back into US good books, is not as welcoming as it was forty years ago.

There are currently at least two young people who have made their way to Canada in objection to the US government¹s war on Iraq. Jeremy Hinzman was a soldier in the 82nd Airborne Division. He and his family arrived in Toronto in January 2004 and are currently seeking refugee status. Brandon Hughey, a 19-year-old American soldier, arrived in St. Catharines two months later and is also seeking refugee status.

Where historically Americans war resisters were welcomed to Canada, today the two must prove they are genuine political refugees before the Canadian Immigration and Refugee Board.

To support the two, and any others who bravely make their way to Canada at risk of court martial, jail or even being sentenced to death (still the punishment for American deserters), a group of prominent Canadians, including Naomi Klein, David Cronenburg, David Suzuki, June Callwood, Heather Mallick, and Buzz Hargrove, as well as the Canadian Labour Congress, the Quakers, the International Socialists and other on-the-ground anti-war activists have formed the War Resisters Support Campaign, which is calling on the Canadian government to protect them from American persecution and offer them sanctuary in the country.

The group has set up a petition calling on the government to do just this. If you are a Canadian reader, I encourage you to sign and, if you can, get involved with the campaign more broadly. Other activities the group will be organising will be on the campaign website in the coming weeks. If you are not Canadian, I would ask that you please take the time to write a short letter to the Canadian embassy in your country. I will be doing what I can here in Brussels.

[I couldn't help, however, noting that the press release on the Campaign website includes the United Empire Loyalists in its list of those Americans who have historically sought refuge in Canada. The United Empire Loyalists were the monarchists who opposed the American Revolution and fled to nice, safe, British North America, where Mad King George still ruled. These people were hardly escaping oppression. In this one instance - unique in history - it was the Yanks who were on the side of the angels. And while I'm in a cynical mood: It looks like the IS are responsible for the WRSC website - which is sort of like asking Dan Quayle and George Bush to judge a spelling bee. Will somebody teach Trotskyists that a basic web design sensibility is not a capitulation to bourgeois aesthetics! (Well, it is, but it is no less the necessary for it) It is not 1993 anymore, comrades!]