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Tell Trudeau: let war resisters stay

By: 
Brian Champ

May 7, 2016

Despite growing public pressure, the Liberal government is still pursuing the litigation against war resisters that started under Harper, re-litigating issues that the Federal Court already found in favour of the war resisters. 

At the end of March, when it became clear that the federal government was intent on proceeding with the Federal Court hearings on April 5 and 6, the War Resisters Support Campaign (WRSC) asked supporters to send emails to the Minister of Justice Jody Wilson-Raybould and the Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship John McCallum urging that these court cases be settled and that these matters be sent back to new immigration officers for re-determination. Hundreds of emails from supporters all across Canada flooded the ministers’ inboxes. 

Meanwhile, the federal court postponed the hearings due to scheduling issues, pushing them back to November 1. This temporary reprieve provides space and a timeline to allow the WRSC and supporters to build the campaign to demand that the federal government drop Harper's litigation against war resisters.  We have from now until November to ratchet up the pressure on the Liberals.

The Liberal government’s continuing of this litigation is at odds with the Liberal election campaign, the Liberal voting record in Parliament on the issue of war resisters and with the legacy of Pierre Elliot Trudeau’s declaration during the Vietnam War that Canada should be a “refuge from militarism,” as he allowed that era’s conscientious objectors to stay.

Prior to last year’s election, the party issued a statement that “The Liberal Party of Canada has consistently held the view that the Canadian government should not turn its back on Americans who have refused to participate in wars in which Canada refused to participate and which had not been authorized by the UN Security Council. We believe that Canada should have allowed those seeking sanctuary in Canada for their opposition to the Iraq War the opportunity to apply for permanent resident status, so long as they did not have a criminal record." 

In a town hall meeting in the lead up to the election, Justin Trudeau said he would deal with the issue of war resisters “with compassion” when he was questioned by a war resister’s partner.  During the Vietnam war era, Canada not only allowed tens of thousands of draft resisters to seek refuge here, but also thousands of deserters. 

Between now and November 1 we need to demand that the litigation against the war resisters be dropped immediately.  We need to push Trudeau to follow in his father’s footsteps on this issue, instead of pursuing the vendetta against these soldiers of conscience that was initiated by Stephen Harper and Jason Kenney. 

The WRSC is urging supporters who live in ridings with a Liberal MP to write, email or phone them to let them know you want the litigation dropped. Ask for a meeting with your MP to discuss the issue. Resources and more information can be found at www.resisters.ca.

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