Idea alert - Macleans.ca

Idea alert

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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.