War resister deported
This past Thursday US war resister Kimberly Rivera presented herself at the American border in Gananoque, Ontario, as per her deportation order. Rivera is a former American Soldier, who fled to Canada after she left the American military because of growing moral objections to the effort in Iraq.
Rivera was deported on the grounds that she would not be in danger of being punished, tortured or have her life threatened, despite the fact that she was vocal about her objection to the war in Iraq.
Rivera is the mother of four children, two of whom were born in Canada.
She has been residing in Toronto since 2007, after she acted on her evolving sentiments towards the Iraq war from when she was overseas. At the time, she had even stopped carrying her rifle around with her.
“The government can grant people, on the humanitarian and compassionate grounds, the right to remain legally in Canada,” explained Chris Anderson, a professor in Wilfrid Laurier Univerity’s political science department.
Anderson went on to explain that the American military certainly does want Rivera back considering how serious a charge desertion could be.
“Military justice and the cohesion of the military depends upon people simply not being able to opt out,” he explained.
Many organizations, such as the United Steelworkers, have been outspoken on this issue, criticizing the Minister of Immigration and Citizenship Jason Kenney for his decision. Canadian political parties have also been highly vocal.
“Different political parties have taken different positions on this [decision]. Each party will no doubt suggest that this reflects certain core values. This government definitely has taken its position which is that American deserters should go back; they’re not facing persecution, they’re facing a form of prosecution,” continued Anderson.
Luke Stewart, a PhD candidate from the University of Waterloo, who helped organize local demonstrations against Rivera’s deportation explained, “Unfortunately, the Canadian government has been cooperating with the American government. In July 2010 they implemented operational bulletin 202, which highlights that duress soldiers coming to Canada are potentially criminally inadmissible in
Canada, because desertion is a crime under US military law as well as Canadian. So the Conservative government hasn’t been doing anything for Kimberly Rivera.”
There has been tremendous public scrutiny targeted towards the United States, suggesting that instances like this are further examples of the government punishing conscientious war objectors.
Alistair Edgar, the executive director of the Academic Council on the United Nations System (ACUNS), contends that there is a lot of gray area in terms of this particular case.
“I don’t know as ‘a fact’ that her fleeing the US military and coming to Canada was [or] is based on moral disagreement. That obviously is her contention, and that of her supporters; and it makes sense that one would make such an argument,” said Edgar. “Saying anything else would be self-defeating.”
Ultimately, Rivera’s fate, while not certain at this point, based on historical precedence, this can include jail time.
”Soldiers have the right (and indeed, the legal as well as moral obligation) to refuse to obey orders to commit criminal acts in war,” Edgar explained.
“But the extent to which they have the legal right and obligation to decide on the “justness” of a war per se is less clear.”