Filmmaker supports U.S. Iraq War resisters in Canada

Award-winning filmmaker Ken Loach has joined a growing number of high-profile Canadian and international filmmakers in support of American soldiers who have come to Canada in opposition to the Iraq War. Loach endorsed Bill C-440; a Liberal bill to be debated in the Canadian Parliament later this month and would, if passed, enable U.S. Iraq War resisters to apply for permanent residence within Canada.

To date, Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government has gone out of its way in its efforts to deport a number of American soldiers that sought refuge from the Iraq War, from the George W. Bush regime and from the U.S. military.

Loach joins his long-time collaborator and screenwriter Paul Laverty to enthusiastically support the War Resisters Support Campaign and Bill C-440. The endorsement comes as their new film Route Irish debuted at the Toronto International Film Festival recently. Route Irish is the story of a private security contractor in Iraq who rejects the official explanation of his friend’s death and sets out to discover the truth.

“I am very pleased to support the War Resisters Support Campaign and endorse Bill C-440,” Loach said. “The illegal war in Iraq has been a tragedy for its victims and has shamed the governments of Britain and the United States. Those who resist it are heroes.”

Loach and Laverty join actress Shirley Douglas, film director David Cronenberg, and Academy Award-winner Ron Kovic in calling on the Harper government to let U.S. Iraq War resisters stay.

Two motions, brought forward by NDP Immigration Critic Olivia Chow and adopted by the House of Commons on June 3, 2008 and March 30, 2009, have directed the Conservative minority government to cease deportation proceedings against U.S. Iraq War resisters and to create a program to facilitate the resisters’ requests for permanent resident status. Since the first motion was passed, resisters Robin Long and Cliff Cornell were deported, targeted for prosecution by the American military and jailed for speaking out against the war.

The Conservative government’s refusal to respect the will of Parliament (offensive in and of itself) led Liberal MP Gerard Kennedy (Parkdale-High Park in Toronto) to introduce Bill C-440 last September, to give those motions legal weight. The bill was seconded by NDP MP Bill Siksay (Burnaby-Douglas in B.C.). The debate of Bill C-440 is scheduled for Sept. 27 with a vote expected to take place on Sept. 29.

Meanwhile, on Sept. 18, the Saturday before the House of Commons fall session begins, Iraq War veteran and resister Rodney Watson will mark his first anniversary in sanctuary at the First United Church in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside.

On July 6, the Federal Court of Appeal ruled unanimously that the request of Jeremy Hinzman — the first U.S. Iraq War resister to come to Canada — to remain in Canada on humanitarian and compassionate grounds must be reconsidered. The Court found that the first decision was “significantly flawed” and “unreasonable” because the immigration officer had the duty to look at all of the appellants’ personal circumstances, including moral, political and religious beliefs and motivations, but failed to do so.

On July 22, 2010 under a Harper government initiative, Citizenship and Immigration Canada issued Operational Bulletin 202 which effectively reversed 40 years of Canadian policy. The directive specifically targets war resisters from the U.S. and instructs immigration officers to treat them as criminals.

Noteworthy, a public opinion poll conducted by Angus Reid Strategies in June 2008 found that nearly two-thirds (64 per cent) of Canadians support granting permanent resident status to U.S. Iraq War resisters.

While living in Toronto, I reported regularly on the plight of a handful of these brave and principled individuals for the Toronto Community News. The deeper I delved into their respective stories, the more I learned about what would happen to them if they are deported, the angrier I grew at the minority Harper government for attempting to unjustly deport these folks.

How do you feel about these peace-loving Americans? Should Canada allow the Harper regime to throw these men and women to the wolves? Or should we maintain our sovereignty and honour our own history of accepting Vietnam War draft dodgers?

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About @LiamLahey

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