Canada No Safe Haven For Military Deserters

National flag of Canada  where military deserters are no longer granted sanctuary

National flag of Canada, where military deserters are no longer granted sanctuary

During the Vietnam War, Canada had a reputation as a safe haven for U.S. military deserters;  that reputation no longer  prevails.

 Although Canada once welcomed U.S. war resisters, a different attitude has developed among Canadians during the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts. Canada has concluded that the Iraq conflict was unjustifiable under international law; but advocates who support deserters protesting the war in Iraq and Afghanistan report that no U.S. soldier has been successful in obtaining legal sanctuary in Canada.

 Immigration laws have changed in Canada since the Vietnam War. Guidelines for immigration hold that desertion is a crime, which may cause those who have left the military to be criminally inadmissible to Canada. There are  few options left for U.S. soldiers. One option is to apply for refugee status based on the fear of persecution if made to go home. However, Nancy Caron, spokeswoman for Citizenship and Immigration Canada, wrote in an email statement that “Military deserters from the U.S. are not genuine refugees under the internationally accepted meaning of the term.”

 Bob Rae of Parliament’s Liberal Party has said that the response to the current U.S. soldiers differs from the response  to Vietnam soldiers in part because the current soldiers are volunteers rather than draftees.

 It is estimated that less than 200 deserters from the Iraq War are now in Canada. Only about 50 have made refugee applications with the remainder living in the country illegally. According to U.S. Army statistics, about 20,000 soldiers deserted since 2006, but the Army has prosecuted only 1,900. Some deserters face court martial and prison time, but most are given a less-than-honorable discharge.

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