Majority of Canadians Want Iraq War Resisters to Stay as Permanent Residents

June 13th, 2016

For immediate release
TORONTO, ONTARIO – A majority of Canadians agree with allowing U.S. soldiers-who fled to Canada after refusing to take part in the Iraq War-to become permanent residents, a new Insights West public opinion poll reveals.

The War Resisters Support Campaign has been trying to help these conscientious objectors get permanent resident status since Jeremy Hinzman came to Canada, with his family, as the first U.S. Iraq War resister in 2004.

In the online survey of a representative national sample, three in five Canadians (63%) say they agree with allowing these U.S. soldiers to become permanent residents of Canada, while one-in-five (21%) disagree and 16% are undecided. The support is very similar regardless of sex (women 64%, men 62%), and there is little fluctuation among age groups (65% for both 18-34 and 55+, and 60% for 35-54).

Majorities in all regions of the country also support allowing the U.S. soldiers to stay, from a high of 74% in British Columbia to a low of 56% in Saskatchewan and Manitoba.

Canadians who voted Liberal and NDP in October 2015 are more likely to support this course of action (71% and 75% respectively) than Conservatives (47%).

“I’m proud to be among the majority of Canadians who support the war resisters’ principled stance,” said Nathaniel Erskine-Smith, MP for the electoral district of Beaches-East York in Toronto. “Finally granting permanent resident status is the right thing to do for these conscientious objectors and for Canada.”

“All of the Iraq War resisters have applications pending before Canadian immigration officials,” said Paul Copeland, CM, a prominent human rights and national security defence lawyer. “The Liberal government could easily resolve their precarious status by granting their spousal sponsorships and applications for permanent residence based on humanitarian and compassionate grounds.”

In May, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was quoted by The Canadian Press saying that this issue is, “one that we are looking into actively as a government.” But after seven months in office there is no evidence that the new government is moving to positively resolve this issue.

During a pre-election campaign stop in Winnipeg, Manitoba on July 4, 2015, Justin Trudeau said, “I am supportive of the principle of allowing conscientious objectors to stay. I am committed … to restoring our sense of compassion and openness and a place that is a safe haven for people to come here.”

Iraq War resister and veteran Rodney Watson remains inside Vancouver’s First United Church where he sought sanctuary almost seven years ago, after being ordered deported to the U.S. by the former Harper government.

Four other war resisters are scheduled to have a judicial review of their cases heard by the Federal Court in Toronto this fall. The government has been given a September 16 deadline to decide whether or not it will continue to pursue the Conservatives’ policy of opposing these conscientious objectors in court.

Since 2008, there have been 12 Federal Court and Federal Court of Appeals decisions in favour of Iraq War resisters. Unfortunately, the limited remedy available to the courts is to send back cases for reconsideration by immigration officials who are still subject to the instructions in the previous government’s prejudicial Operational Bulletin 202. The current government is re-litigating many issues that have already been found in the war resisters’ favour by the Canadian courts and is defending the Harper government’s position that it is acceptable to imprison conscientious objectors.

The War Resisters Support Campaign is asking the Trudeau government to:
1. Stop the deportation of U.S. war resisters;
2. Stop pursuing war resister cases in court, as doing so defends decisions and policies made by the former Conservative government;
3. Rescind the prejudicial Citizenship and Immigration Canada Operational Bulletin 202; and
4. Implement a new directive that restores fairness for all U.S. war resister cases.

About this survey:

These results are based on an online study conducted from May 30 to June 2, 2016, among a representative sample of 1,001 Canadian adults. The data have been statistically weighted according to Canadian census figures for age, gender, and region. The margin of error-which measures sample variability-is +/- 3.1 percentage points.

About Insights West:

Insights West is a progressive, Western-based, full-service marketing research company. It exists to serve the market with insights-driven research solutions and interpretive analysis through leading-edge tools, normative databases, and senior-level expertise across a broad range of public and private sector organizations. Insights West is based in Vancouver and Calgary.

Federal Court/Federal Court of Appeal decisions in favour of U.S. war resisters

1. Joshua Key – July 2008

2. James Corey Glass – July 2008

3. Jeremy Hinzman – September 2008

4. Matthew Lowell – September 2008

5. Dean Walcott – January 2009

6. Kimberly Rivera – March 2009

7. Kimberly Rivera – August 2009

8. Jeremy Hinzman – July 2010 (Federal Court of Appeal)

9. Dean Walcott – April 2011

10. Chris Vassey – July 2011

11. Jules Tindungan – February 2013

12. D.G.L. – October 2014

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