May 25, 2010 House of Commons
Ms. Olivia Chow (Trinity—Spadina, NDP): Mr. Speaker, deciding to leave the army, navy or marines is never an easy decision for a soldier.
In speaking about his decision to leave the army after nine years, Patrick Hart, a constituent in my riding, a supply sergeant who served in Germany, the U.S. and Kuwait after the invasion of Iraq, explained the reasons that led to his resisting serving in Iraq again. He recounts that he spoke to many of the soldiers who had been in Iraq. He heard really upsetting things, especially about what happened to children caught in the fighting.
“I thought of my son, Ryan and realized how horrible it must be for Iraqi parents. I realized I just could not continue to be part of the army anymore. It was a hard decision, but in August 2006, I came to Toronto.”
Patrick Hart and his wife, Jill and his son, Ryan are contributing residents of Canada. Patrick volunteers at his son’s school and fundraises for the Epilepsy Foundation of Canada. They serve as active members in a housing co-op. Jill works for Lula Lounge, a very famous place for downtown Torontonians. They are constantly worrying about being deported from Canada.
The war in Iraq is an invasion, no doubt about it. It is not liberation. The invasion of 2003 has caused a million people in Iraq to die in the wake of post-invasion violence. Sectarian wars have torn the country apart, while foreign troops have established huge military bases.
Today, 70% of Iraqis lack potable water, and unemployment hovers around 50%. The situation is so grim that there are over 2 million Iraqi refugees and almost 3 million internally displaced Iraqis. That is a fifth of the population of Iraq.
Phil McDowell, a former sergeant in the United States Army, is one of the many resisters who have firsthand experience on the front lines in Iraq. He said:
Throughout my tour, I was told to run civilian cars off the road if they got in the way. I saw the mistreatment of Iraqi civilians or detainees who I found out later had done nothing wrong at all. I saw more evil being brought to the country that we were supposed to be liberating.
I went there to look for weapons of mass destruction so I could protect my country.
But he found none.
What is it all about, this Iraq war? It is all about oil. It makes one wonder if maybe that is why the Conservative government has ignored both motions put by New Democrats that have passed this Parliament. The first one passed on June 3, 2008, in the 38th Parliament. A year later, on March 30, 2009, it passed in the 39th Parliament.
Is it possible that the government would rather listen to their pals at the oil companies, such as Talisman, Western Zagros, Nexen that have oil interest in Iraq, than listen to the will of Parliament? Just last fall Iraq oil fields management, the government, sent out signed contracts with both Shell and CNPC, a Chinese firm. By the end of this year, 30 more countries have been approved to bid on the next round of contracts.
What we are seeing about Iraq is the real reason is not about liberation, it is really about oil. That is why some of the soldiers said they do not want to go back to Iraq. They had been there and do not support stop-loss. They do not want to be forced back.
If they are deported from Canada, the war resisters will be court martialled and given dishonourable discharges, which goes on their record as a felony offence, greatly hampering their future educational and employment opportunities, and they serve time in jail.
I visited a war resister, Robin Long, in jail. Robin served a year and said that he is having a hard time coming back to Canada to visit his son. He served a longer sentence than those who have committed serious crimes. His only mistake was refusing to fight in an unsanctioned war.
In 2004, Jeremy Hinzman and his family were the first Iraq war resisters to come to Canada and apply for asylum. Today his case was heard in court again.
For six years the war resister campaign support team led by Michelle Robioux, that has members such as Alex Lisman, Lee Zaslosky, Charlie Diamond, Ken Marciniec, with lawyers Carolyn Egan, Alyssa Manning and Jeff House, have been working hard. They have been meeting every Wednesday to assist war resisters and assist in their efforts. I want to take this opportunity to thank them for their dedication and their hard work.
They are not alone. A public opinion poll conducted by Angus Reid found that 64% of Canadians supported Parliament’s vote directing the minority Conservative government to immediately stop deporting Iraq war resisters and create a program to facilitate the resisters’ requests for permanent resident status.
The Nuremberg principles established that soldiers have a duty, not a choice, to refuse to carry out immoral orders. The UN International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, article 18, and the UN Handbook for Refugees, chapter 5, section B, makes clear that conscientious objectors to war have rights and can require protection from states.
Kimberly Rivera and her family felt the need to come to Canada because her Christian values opposed the war in Iraq. She explained that on leave back in the U.S. she and her husband decided the war was wrong based on their values as Christians and the army was tearing her family apart. They decided they would come to Canada. As a Christian, she said she was told to harm mothers and children. She said every time she was told to do that, she imagined her own children being harmed and that is why she could not go back to Iraq.
Perhaps Kim Rivera is sympathizing with the one million widows in Iraq. That is right. Right now after all the years of fighting and invasions, there are one million widows in Iraq. Kim Rivera, thinking of her children, did not want to participate in this war. She has other children, but we should allow her and her two children born in Canada to be allowed to stay in Canada together with other families whether it is Phil McDowell, Jeremy Hinzman or Patrick Hart, we should support this private member’s bill and let the war resisters stay in Canada.
As we go through second reading and when the bill is sent eventually to the immigration committee, I would ask the government to respect the will of Parliament and not inflict deportation on war resisters because if they were deported they would experience serious jail sentences.
The New Democratic Party of Canada is supporting this private member’s bill. We have put this in motion. We will continue to push for war resisters to be able to stay in Canada.