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War resister begins fourth year in sanctuary

Sarah Bjorknas

September 26, 2013

On September 18, Rodney Watson started his fourth year living at First United Church in Vancouver without ever leaving the property.
Watson is a decorated US soldier who served in Iraq. After completing his tour of duty in Iraq, he was stop-lossed and ordered back to Iraq. Instead, he came to Canada in 2006. Faced with a deportation order dated September 11, 2009, he requested sanctuary at First United Church rather than be separated from his Canadian wife and son. Watson maintains his position that no one should be punished for refusing to commit war crimes, especially while those responsible for those crimes live their lives in freedom.
Rodney Watson witnessed intense racism and religious persecution while serving in the US military in Iraq. As an African American, he reflected on what he experienced and determined that he could not participate in it any further. While at home on leave, he received further orders that would have kept him in Iraq past the time of his contract. Coming to Canada, he met other US military personnel who made the same decision as him and chose to speak out about it.
Rodney draws strength for this epic challenge from his son Jordon. Helping to raise him and watching him grow up is what keeps him focused on his principled position. He is looking at the world from the inside out and really wants to be free to fully live life with his family.
Rodney identifies with his contemporary political prisoners and whistleblowers, like Chelsea (formerly Bradley) Manning and Edward Snowden. He strongly believes that such people should not spend one day without freedom for following their conscience. He's watching the increased militarization of our world, with the drive to war and intervention, through the eyes of someone who knows the consequences and can't be silent about it.
Rodney Watson is challenging us all to hold on to our humanity and not let the Harper government break up his family. "Together we can begin to heal this world and together we can uplift those who have given up on the possibility of a better way."
You can help Rodney by contacting the new Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, Chris Alexander, and asking him to let Rodney Watson and the other Iraq War resisters stay in Canada. The minister can be reached by phone: 613-954-1064; and email:,
For more information visit the War Resisters Support Campaign

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