Idea alert - Macleans.ca
 

Idea alert


 

Gerard Kennedy humbly suggests his private member’s bill won’t lead to lawless anarchy.

A generation ago, Canada accepted thousands of “draft-dodgers” and also thousands of resisters who left active military service in the United States because of that conflict.

Today, the Canadian government of the day resorts to smears and innuendo to stifle even a debate on our reaction to the two to three hundred American service people from the Iraq War who are looking for asylum in Canada, with official spokespersons throwing around vile words like rapists and terrorists.  It is sad, the Harper government doesn’t have the courage of its convictions to debate the issue openly on its merits but sadder still if Canadians don’t insist on such a debate.

The facts of my private members bill Bill C-440 are plain: it would create grounds for humanitarian consideration for permanent residence in Canada.  The narrow grounds would be a finding of genuine moral or conscientious objection to leave the armed services in a war not sanctioned by the United Nations (such as the Iraq War), and subject to compulsion by way of return to service or stop-loss (a controversial U.S measure that forced military personnel back into war zones even after their service was concluded).  All the other protections to screen out unwelcome elements remain in place; against anyone who has a prior criminal record would not be considered (eliminating the rapist canard raised by the Harper government). National security or human rights concerns or even considerations health, financial or inadmissible family members would also all be protections of Canadian interests that would remain in place.

A year and a half ago, the House passed a motion that recommended the government allow conscientious objectors to seek asylum here.


 

Idea alert

  1. Does Bill C-440 apply only to Americans or the whole world? If it is the whole world I can see lots of dodgy people from around the world claiming asylum here. What happens when Hezbollah members apply for permanent residence?

    • Well, I don't know the answer to the general question, but I believe Hezbollah is considered a terrorist organization by Canada, and so I'm guessing they would be inadmissible on "National security or human rights concerns".

      • At the moment Hezbollah is on terrorist list but what happens when government of the day changes its mind about what is a terrorist org and what isn't. Libs were happy to let people in Canada raise money for LTTE because they also donated money to party. I would rather not rely on pols judgement when it comes to choice between receiving money/votes or banning people on "National security or human rights concerns".

        And what about unintended consequences and making wide-ranging laws based on non-typical events. Kennedy has a bee in his bonnet about the treatment of a few Americans so he is willing to chance Canadians safety to salve his conscience.

        • If members of the Hezbollah want to stop being members of it, you'd prevent them?

          • Sorry Hezbollah is what country?

          • Yes and no. I would be happy for people to quit Hezbollah but that doesn't mean I want the leadership or foot soldiers to emigrate here. Surely there are more deserving, and less homicidal, people who we can welcome here.

          • My reading of the bill is not that permanent residence would be granted automatically, but rather that conscientious objection to a non-UN sanctioned war would be at least considered as possible grounds, wheres now, presumably, it is not.

        • You mean like the CONs letting in former security members of right wing paramilitary organizations from governments that are replaced by democratically elected socialist parties?

  2. I understand the objection for those American servicepeople who volunteered and then didn't like the assignment. Fair enough, they knew there was a War in Iraq when they signed up (unless they're career service people). But what about the Stop-Loss thing? I cannot imagine the horror of that little surprise, and arguments about how they took advantage of the military (education, salary, fringe benefits) goes out the window IMO because they did honour their part of the deal. It's like the American government is punishing those who make it through the war unscathed.

    • "But what about the Stop-Loss thing?"

      What about it? I agree that it must be devastating for people subject to it but the provision allowing Stop-Loss is in contract soldiers sign. US Supreme Court has ruled on this a few times, I believe. If people are not prepared to go to war and kill others than they should not be joining US Armed Services because Presidents regularly send soldiers around the world to fight.

      • Perhaps a lot of people signed up in a wave of patriotic fervor following the 911 attacks, only to find their contribution extended and abused as the need for ever more troops was not supplemented by a politically poisonous "draft". Increased recruitment drives, especially in areas of high unemployment would lead to signing up a great deal of people who are taking the recruitment officers at their word and not reading the fine print.
        Would you feel any differently if a nephew of yours ran into a persuasive recruitment drive, impulsively signed up and neglected to read the fine print and then was locked in until he was either killed, maimed or too fugged up to be of any more use to the forces?

        • I would not feel any differently because, theoretically, my nephew signed a contract. And if my nephew didn't read the fine print then he has just learned a good life lesson.

          What I think happens is that people join for the education and then hope they are not assigned to the front lines of a war. And when that doesn't work out as planned they have second thoughts.

        • I would not feel any differently because, theoretically, my nephew is an adult and signed a contract. And if my nephew didn't read the fine print then he has just learned a good life lesson.

          What I think happens is that people join for the education and then hope they are not assigned to the front lines of a war. And when that doesn't work out as planned they have second thoughts.

          • Im sure recruitment is struggling now that the details have emerged, but a lot of recruits enlisted in the patriotic wave resulting from 9/11 and the urgent call put out by the Bush Administration.They had visions of serving their country, getting an education and making a better life for themselves – the American Dream in 3 acts.
            The reality is a little more complex. The privitization of the war has resulted in a lot of services previously performed by the army, being taken care of by private companies like Haliburton. These employees make a helluva lot more money and have the added bonus of being able to refuse jobs they deem too dangerous. As a result, your lowly recruit pulls the most dangerous duty at a quarter of the pay, can't refuse orders, has their tour extended repeatedly, and gets to watch private citizens make out like bandits. This is a great way to run a war. Is it any wonder these problems develop.
            UncleSam's obligation should be to take care of his soldiers. Instead they are facing diminishing benefits, substandard care and a lifetime of psychological and physical problems.
            I'd have second thoughts about that too.

          • m sure recruitment is struggling now that the details of the war have emerged, but a lot of recruits enlisted in the patriotic wave resulting from 9/11 and the urgent calls put out by the Bush Administration.They had visions of serving their country, getting an education and making a better life for themselves – the American Dream in 3 acts. The reality is a little more complex. The privitization of the war has resulted in a lot of services previously performed by the army, being taken care of by private companies like Haliburton. These employees make a helluva lot more money and have the added bonus of being able to refuse jobs they deem too dangerous. As a result, your lowly recruit pulls the most dangerous duty at a quarter of the pay, can't refuse orders, has their tour extended repeatedly, and gets to watch private citizens make out like bandits. This is a great way to run a war. Is it any wonder these problems develop. UncleSam's obligation should be to take care of his soldiers. Instead they are facing diminishing benefits, substandard care and a lifetime of psychological and physical problems. I'd have second thoughts about that too.

          • … or they've been on 3 tours in Iraq and seen such horrible things that you and I could not imagine and can't go back. Definitely a good 'life lesson' though. Taking life, and losing one's life.

          • If the print is too fine, often the contract is void. In law, tricking someone into agreement does not a true agreement make. To be sure, the onus is on the person signing to make sure they know what they're getting into. But if a MAJOR commitment (i.e, possibly dying) is SO hidden that a reasonable person wouldn't realize what they're signing on to, it's could be judged as though they never signed.

        • While I would definitely agree with you that any dodgy recruitment tactics are a concern, they are in no way Canada's concern.

        • Maybe you could explain how leaving your colleagues behind to shoulder more of the burden is a viable option. Additionally, there is not a soul who does not know what the terms of the contract are, this is not the year 1800, the military ensures that the contract is understood.

        • How I feel about their personal circumstances is irrelevant. And ones reasons for signing up are also irrelevant. Again, demonstrate fraud or false inducement and you break the contract without penalty….or claim compensation…..

          At the end of the day these people are adults, they can make adult decisions, good and bad. It also means they face the consequences of those decisions. It is a more dangerous path to assume your citizenry is unable to make a decision and it has to be made for them.

  3. So let me get this straight. Gerard has in mind letting in people who break contracts. That we didnt deport draft dodgers is different from not deporting people who freely sign up and change their mind.

    Wrong people, wrong message.

    Will we let in tax dodgers next because they have moral concerns over paying their taxes? Or do we let in Australians because they dont want to vote in their forced voting system. Just where do you draw the line, and in this case it si weirder because there was no government coercion, ie a draft, for the contract.

    Wooly headedness at its absolute fluffiest….

    Parenthetically, I find it hard to square this with Iggy's previous thoughts that societies might have to do terrible things to defend themselves. Yup the Liberals are all on board…..

    • What about the Stop-Loss provision?

      • Fair question however….

        1) I beleive it is known when you sign, whether you read it or not is your problem
        2) That if this provision of the contract is unfair in the US it can be taken to court. The US has a rather robust court system, unless the purpose of the bill is to say it doesnt, so let it play out and if people dont like it, well there is a functioning democracy down there to change the law as well.

        I have more sympathy for "draft dodgers" than I do for contract breakers. Even then, where do you draw the line on any of this. It plays well in certain crowds but at the end of the day it is not in our interest to encourage or interfere in these matters and the ethical arguments unravel pretty fast.

        Emotionalism.

        • The other side of the coin is when do we extradite for a civil suit? Because if it's breaking a contract, that's a civil matter, not a criminal one. And if we do for these, will we do it for anybody who claims that their contract has been broken? Because that's what this boils down to. Someone has come in and said, "He broke his contract! Send him down here so we can have a trial," and we're saying "Okay boss!" even though the person has broken no laws here.

          • There is no extradition. Nobody is allowed to stay in Canada longer than 6 months without a visa, permanent residence or citizenship. It is not extradition to remove someone that is here illegally.

        • Give some of these kids a break as far as the "whether you read it or not is your problem" schtick. The recruitment officers are under a lot of pressure to staff a war and they are using a lot of high pressure, flag waving tactics that are bound to ensnare some poor,dutiful, naive souls. Uncle Sam promises the world and then disappears behind a wall of red tape and "Who told you that? No one would tell you that" denials and "fall in line, soldier" commands.

        • Give some of these kids as break as far as the "whether you read it or not is your problem" schtick. The recruitment officers are under a lot of pressure to staff a war and they are using a lot of high pressure, flag waving tactics that are bound to ensnare some poor,dutiful, naive souls. Uncle Sam promises the world and then disappears behind a wall of red tape and "Who told you that? No one would tell you that" denials and "fall in line, soldier" commands.

          • Your hatred of the American government is obvious. Do you feel the same way about the Canadian military?

    • "people who break contracts…" are likely some of Harper's favourite people. What is a promise like "won't tax income trusts" "won't appoint senators" and "won't raise personal income tax" but contracts with the public? Never mind the one about accountability.

  4. Possibly the most tone deaf idea I've heard since Green Shift.

    Keep doing what you're doing, Wherry, you and your Liberal colleagues doing a better job of sinking the Liberal ship than I and my conservative brothers ever could. Thanks for that, eh? Just keep talking, keep blurting out "brilliant" ideas like this one and we won't even have to bother with lawn signs next election. Thanks. Really, you have no idea how indispensible you are to the movement.

  5. This bill is an insult to people with honour and integrity.

    • This bill is about honour and integrity.

      • It's about allowing people to run away from their commitments. It's about allowing people to garner a wage from the US military, and then run away when the military expects something in return, despite having signed a contract. The people left behind must then shoulder more of the burden. It's about fleeing your country when your country needs you most. It's not about asylum, it's about running away with your tail between your legs, like a coward. It's about Canada welcoming cowards into our country.

        • Courageously signing up to serve and protect their country, these fine young men and women were lied to by their Commander in Chief.

          Support the Troops.

  6. If someone objects to going to war when their country orders, they should not join the military.

    This was not a draft, folks, in which civilians were ordered to go and fight against their will. This is an all-volunteer force. Excuses like "but I didn't expect to go fight there" or "but I didn't want to keep fighting this long" don't cut it.

    If someone joined the military, was willing to go to war, but has an honest conscientious objection to fighting this particular war then they should also be honest enough to face the legal consequences their country demands for this stance. Not only would it be unjust for them to seek asylum here, we don't want the kind of people who would do this.

    • What about excuses like, "I didn't expect to be asked to break international law."

      • Again, if a volunteer soldier has an honest conscientious objection to something their country asks them to do, then they should refuse to do it and accept the legal consequences. People disagree on ethics in war quite a bit; if everyone was allowed to refuse duty using this excuse then the country could not fight effectively.

        Any honourable soldier knows this and acknowledges that for his country's sake he has to accept penalties should he refuse to follow orders, even if he's right and the orders are wrong. Anything less weakens his country's defenses.

      • Again, if a volunteer soldier has an honest conscientious objection to something their country asks them to do, then they should refuse to do it and accept the legal consequences. People disagree on ethics in war quite a bit; if everyone was allowed to refuse duty using this excuse then the country could not fight effectively.

        Any honourable soldier knows this and acknowledges that for his country's sake he has to accept penalties should he refuse to follow orders, even if he's right and the orders are wrong. Anything less weakens his country's defenses, and no decent man would do this for the sake of his own liberty or life.

      • Again, if a volunteer soldier has an honest conscientious objection to something his country asks him to do, then he should refuse to do it and accept the legal consequences. People disagree on ethics in war quite a bit; if everyone was allowed to refuse duty using this excuse then the country could not fight effectively.

        Any honourable soldier knows this and acknowledges that for his country's sake he has to accept penalties should he refuse to follow orders, even if he's right and the orders are wrong. Anything less weakens his country's defenses.

        • Except a contract that requires a person to violate the law is generally considered void. So any penalties specified within would similarly be void. That's the kicker, this isn't just anybody who decides, "Hey, I don't want to fight" this is specifically for those who don't want to be party to breaking international law.

          I'm on the fence on this one. Personally, I think anybody who signs up for the military with the kind of return it provides is either terminally patriotic or terminally stupid. And while I certainly agree that the US is within its rights to petition we return the person, it is, at the end of the day, a contract dispute — with the guys on the one side saying, "That wasn't what we agreed upon.." and the guys on the other side saying "Oh yes it was.." And I don't support extraditing people to possible life imprisonment or capital punishment for a contract dispute.

          Of course, I also support the idea that if any of these people choose to return to the states, the US can come down on them like a ton of bricks, and they deserve it. But they are choosing permanent exile from their home country. That's pretty significant right there.

          • It's a valid point you raise, but the right course of action in cases where the legality is disputed is to face act by conscience, face the penalties, and fight the legal case. Dodging the consequences saves the soldier some immediate pain but leaves the underlying problem unresolved and the country weakened.

          • It's a valid point you raise, but the right course of action in cases where the legality is disputed is to act by conscience, face the penalties, and fight the legal case. Dodging the consequences saves the soldier some immediate pain but leaves the underlying problem unresolved and the country weakened.

          • It's a valid point you raise, but the right course of action in cases where the legality is disputed is to act by conscience, face the penalties, and fight the legal case. Dodging the consequences saves the soldier some immediate pain but leaves the underlying problem unresolved and the country weakened – so it amounts the soldier shirking his duty.

          • It's a valid point you raise, but the right course of action in cases where the legality is disputed is to act by conscience, face the penalties, and fight the legal case. Dodging the consequences saves the soldier some immediate pain but leaves the underlying problem unresolved and the country weakened – so it amounts to the soldier shirking his duty.

        • Accept the legal consequences, even if that means leaving children without a mother?

          • Yes. That is something one consciously risks when signing up for the military, whether it's by enemy action or by court martial due to disobeying orders. The idea is to put the country's well-being before one's self or one's family.

  7. If someone objects to going to war when their country orders, they should not join the military.

    This was not a draft, folks, in which civilians were ordered to go and fight against their will. This is an all-volunteer force. Excuses like "but I didn't expect to go fight there" or "but I didn't agree to keep fighting this long" don't cut it.

    If someone joined the military, was willing to go to war, but has an honest conscientious objection to fighting this particular war then they should also be honest enough to face the legal consequences their country demands for this stance. Not only would it be unjust for them to seek asylum here, we don't want the kind of people who would do this.

  8. Joylon and Vince, let me get this straight. If you volunteer for the U.S. Armed Services, let's say you want the education assistance it offers, you are beholden to them for the rest of your life, even if you only sign a– I don't know what it is with the education thing, but let's say it's ten years–contract?

    So, when you are thirty-five years old, perhaps now with a spouse and children, you are expected to continue a promise you made at eighteen, the main contractual commitment you have already fulfilled, because it is written in the fine print? All perfectly legal, sure, but how's that for morally right?

    And of course without this perfectly legal provision, they wouldn't have enough "volunteers" to prevent the draft, but draft-dodging is okay. So, I can't help but be left with the impression that it is the class of volunteers that make them so expendable to you, i.e., those that can afford the education without the military's help won't volunteer for the military.

    Now, that is a nasty thing for me to think, and I invite you to explain to me where I went wrong in my logic.

    • You are not beholden to them fdor the rest of your life, the contract has a fixed term. The same is true in Canada. When you are 35, the contract is over.

      You are really stretchin with your logic, into a realm of nonsense. If someone needs money for education, then they should get a loan, or financial assistance from the government, which exists is droves – nobody in the US is denied education for financial reasons in the US, that's why they have public universities (that doesn't mean you won't have a loan to pay back though). If you want to earn money to put towards an education, then there are a million ways to do so that have nothing to do with the military.

      You are confusing an incentive to encourage people to join the military with something else. Instead you characterize it as a way of getting an education cheaply, while screwing the military who gave that to you, in exchange for your commitment. The education was not a gift, and anyone who takes the offer knows what the terms are.

      • Uh… you might want to brush up on the "Stop Loss" provision.

    • So when mythincal person A signs up for the army, for the incentives that you outline were they never trained to fire a gun, they were, were they told that they would be shooting people with that gun if their Cin C so decided, they were.

      This is the problem. Regardles sof the incentives or inducements offered are they being asked to do something they were never told was possible or was is signing the contract really just supposed to be a one way street, one person gets all of the benefits and none of the obligations.

      As for keeping a promise when you were 18…..uh yeah….marriage contracts, you cant just walk away if you break it there are obligations that continue and if you dont keep up with them your penalized, mortgage contracts, car loans you name it.

      Once again, if they can show that they were deceived thats a different story…and one they can pursue in American courts….

    • Jenn_ Before you accuse me of wanting to kill working class people you should get some facts straight. I am from working class and had to work for 18 months between high school and university to pay for my education. I thought about joining Canadian military but quickly came to my senses.

      It is my understanding that in exchange for education, the Armed Services expect you to serve for 4 years so there are no 35 year olds who have been serving 17 years against their will and who only had a contract for 10 years.

      The point is that people have choices and if you don't like your choice in hindsight, too bad, because that's life.

      • Thanks, Joylon, I was sure I had it wrong too. Quick question on the education–how did you pay for your living expenses while you were working for the 18 months to put toward school? I've wanted to go back to school since leaving high school, but I just don't see how people swing it. Or, how did you get the high enough paying job BEFORE the education that would allow you to pay both the living expenses and the something toward school?

        Continued . . .

        • Short version – worked like a dog at Dofasco (steel company) – family connections helped me get job – and lived with my grand mother because work was in different city than where I lived. Nan charged me rent/expenses but it was less than what I would have paid if I was on my own.

        • "Quick question on the education–how did you pay for your living expenses while you were working for the 18 months to put toward school?"

          Short version – worked like a dog at Dofasco (steel company) – family connections helped me get job – and lived with my grand mother because work was in different city than where I lived. Nan charged me rent/expenses but it was less than what I would have paid if I was on my own.

        • "Quick question on the education–how did you pay for your living expenses while you were working for the 18 months to put toward school?"

          Short version – worked like a dog at Dofasco (steel company) – family connections helped me get job – and moved in with my grandmother because work was in different city than where my parents and I lived. Nan charged me rent/expenses but it was less than what I would have paid if I was on my own.

  9. If Kennedy wants to change a US law or US practice he can move their and run.

    I thought he made more sense when he did his research on where money was flowing from the stimulus plan. But hey, its time to run for leader again.

  10. No, the desserter is here illegally. He isnt being deported for those reasons. He is being deported because he/she isnt allowed to immigrate.

    • I think you mean "emigrate" rather than "immigrate".

      That said, that restriction on emigrating is, again, part of the contract. If the contract is void (which is what these people are asserting) then the normal laws of the US apply, which has no bar on people emigrating.

      And as a side note, I personally feel pretty much any law that keeps people from emigrating should never be upheld.. "if you don't like it, move" is the last bastion of true liberty.

      • Yes immigrate…..thanks

        But his deportation has nothing to do with his contract….that is his/her attempt to justify refugee status. So the answer is, the desserter is in Canada illegally and is being deported back to their home country and their request to be accepted as a refugee is refused because their reasons dont qualitfy.

        At the end of the day they are here illegally. Nobody says he cant emigrate, he just needs to find somewhwere that would take him. We are not obligated to do so, as we control our own borders for entry.

        There is no compelling reason to accept these people as refugees and no compelling reason they cant work out whatever issues they have with their home counrty in their home country.

  11. Gerard Kennedy humbly suggests his private member's bill won't lead to lawless anarchy

    Now there's a ridiculous straw-man.

  12. One more thing. So would British soldiers have been able to apply because they objected to what they were being asked to do in Northern Ireland. What about National Guardsmen who are asked to shoot looters after Katrina.

    Or do countries have to apply to the UN for internal conflicts….and what if those internal conflicts, like Northern Ireland are questionable if they are about trying to form their own country…..

    Would Gerrard Kennedy be just as sanguine about a Canadian soldier deserting before he was deployed in Khanawake…a non UN sponsored use of force.

    You see the problems with this are you cant acheive what Kennedy is trying to acheive with a single law, which is the a good sign you are engaging in bespoke ethics and morality. Or he just plain hasnt thought it through.

  13. It doesn't surprise me that this bill is coming from Kennedy. There is a statue commemorating draft dodgers in High Park, and I always saw a lot of posters regarding the issue from lefty activitists (before I moved it was either that or stuff about our "imperialist" presence in Haiti.

    Question – how would we feel if the Americans passed a similar bill, allowing admission to the US on humanitarian grounds, for Canadian conscientious objectors (and draft dodgers if there was some hypothetical future draft)?

    • I suspect the lines would split pretty much as they are today.

      The Stop Loss provision is quite nasty though, you have to admit.

  14. Hey — all this commentary from people who did not read the bill — astonishing prognostication.

  15. So, as in my example which I admit may not be the best one, the war in Iraq started after I signed up at age 18. I did my four years of active duty in Somalia or Bosnia or somewhere, then was called up for Iraq while in the reserves, where I served for two years. I got out three years ago and have since married and started a family. Now, the President is calling. At what point can I say no without being a traitor, a cowardly quitter who puts a greater burden on my fellow soldier, etc.? And since I can't "say no" at all, at what point is moving to Canada not considered traitorous, a cowardly quitter, etc?

  16. My understanding of U.S. Armed Services is that your initial contract stipulates 2 to 4 years of ACTIVE service, followed by 8 years in Reserve. At any time, even after retirement from the Armed Services reserves, Stop-Loss can be invoked. From Wikipedia, "… the President may suspend any provision of law relating to promotion, retirement, or separation applicable to any member of the armed forces who the President determines is essential to the national security of the United States" and Paragraph 10(c) of DD Form 4/1 (The Armed Forces Enlistment Contract) which states: "In the event of war, my enlistment in the Armed Forces continues until six (6) months after the war ends, unless the enlistment is ended sooner by the President of the United States."

    Continued . . . Jeez!

    • Interesting, so under those terms.. a permanent war means anybody who signed up within 10-12 years of that war *starting* can be drafted back into service at any time.

      That could get pretty nasty.

      Just thought of something.. the position the US is taking is that Iraq is simply a continuation of Gulf War I.

      That started in August of 1990.. so does this mean anybody who joined the military at any time after 1980 is subject to stop-loss provisions if the army decides so?

  17. Interesting, so under those terms.. a permanent war means anybody who signed up.. ever.. can be drafted back into the forces. That's gonna be a kicker for some.

  18. I think something that needs to be considered is the signal this sends to our own service-people. If our country has no problem with American deserters, why should our own armed forces fear prosecution for the same offence here?

    And I can just imagine the outrage here if the US were to provide a safe-haven for Canadian criminals to escape prosecution.

    • I don't understand this logic.

      Not extraditing someone doesn't say we have no problems with an activity they've done or haven't done. It says that we don't feel there is significant enough reason to ship a person to a country against their will on that country's request.

      • I believe extradition only applies in the case where the person is here legally. In this case, these people are in our country illegally, and should be deported (though we should be deporting a lot of other people here illegally as well).

        • Once again, they're only here illegally if their contract with the US gov't is in force. The dispute that's going on is whether it is or isn't.

  19. No "contract" is valid if one party actively deceives the other — and the whole world knows the invasion of Iraq was based on lies.