U.S. Deserters Lose Bid For Canada Refugee Status
By Randall Palmer and Lynne Olver
Two Americans who deserted the U.S. Army to protest against the war in Iraq lost their bid for refugee status in Canada on Thursday, and the Canadian government made it clear they were no longer welcome.
The Supreme Court of Canada declined to hear appeals from the two men, Jeremy Hinzman and Brandon Hughey, over decisions by immigration authorities -- backed in two subsequent court rulings -- that they were not refugees in need of protection.
Opposing the war on the belief that it was illegal and immoral, the two deserted when they learned their units would be deployed to Iraq, and came to Canada. If deported to the United States, they say they face a court martial and up to five years in prison.
During the Vietnam War, Canada was a haven for tens of thousands of draft dodgers and deserters. But Hinzman and Hughey were volunteers rather than conscripts. Their backers urged the government to let them stay in Canada anyhow, but this met with little sympathy from Ottawa.
"Canadians want a refugee system that helps true refugees," said Mike Fraser, spokesman for Citizenship and Immigration Minister Diane Finley. "All refugee claimants in Canada have the right to due process and when they have exhausted those legal avenues we expect them to respect our laws and leave the country."