War resister Kimberly Rivera has been released from military prison and has been reunited with her family, after serving 10 months of a 14-month sentence. Rivera lived in Canada for five years, until she was forced out of the country by Stephen Harper’s Conservative government. In January, people across Canada will demonstrate their support for US war resisters during Let Them Stay Week 2014, a series of actions held from January 12 to January 19.
Rivera, who grew up in Texas, joined the United States Army and was deployed to Iraq. When she saw the destruction caused by the US-led invasion and occupation of that country, especially the trauma inflicted on children, she knew she could no longer participate. Rivera was on leave in the US when, with no legal way to leave the Army, she and her husband packed up their children and all their belongings and drove to Canada, seeking refuge.
While living in Canada, Rivera joined the peace movement. She spoke out publicly against the Iraq War and all imperialism, and became active in her community in the Parkdale neighbourhood of Toronto. Despite widespread public support—including 20,000 signatures on a letter to then-Immigration Minister Jason Kenney over a 10-day period, and an appeal from Archbishop Desmond Tutu—the Conservative government refused to allow Rivera to remain in Canada.
The Harper Government’s opposition to allowing US Iraq War resisters to remain in Canada puts them on the wrong side of Canadian democracy and Canadian history. Parliament twice voted to allow war resisters to stay, but the Harper Government ignored the will of the people as expressed by the House of Commons. In the 1960s and 70s, tens of thousands of US war resisters came to Canada and, after Canadians campaigned on their behalf, were allowed to stay. Contrary to what the Harper Government claims, no distinction was made between Vietnam-era war resisters who had been drafted and those who volunteered for the military.
January 2014 marks ten years since the first US Iraq War resisters arrived in Canada. To mark this anniversary, and to continue to build support for soldiers whose consciences compelled them to leave the illegal and immoral war in Iraq, the War Resisters Support Campaign will lead Let Them Stay Week 2014 from January 12-19. People across Canada will lobby their Members of Parliament, write letters, make phone calls, and organize community events, calling on the next Government to make a provision for US Iraq War resisters to stay in Canada.
Visit resisters.ca or join the Campaign’s Facebook group at https://www.facebook.com/WarResisters to see how you can get involved.