At 3 o’clock, Tuesday June 3, the House of Commons passed a resolution recommending that the government allow war resisters to apply for permanent resident status and that it cease deportation orders. The motion was backed by the NDP, Liberals and the Bloc, with the Tories voting against.
OTTAWA— War resisters are welcome here!
There’s an incredible sense of anticipation as we leave 25 Cecil St., Tuesday, June 3, at 8 a.m. with a busload of war resisters for Ottawa.
We’re like fans going to watch the game that puts their team in the playoffs, an easily excitable nineteen year-old war resister Garret deftly explains.
Word had gone out on Monday that an opposition-backed motion to allow war resisters to apply for permanent resident status and remain in Canada would likely pass.
When I call MP Olivia Chow’s office on Monday, her parliamentary assistant Nathan Rotman invites me to “the victory party.’’ That’s when I know this was real, and after four years of listening to the peacenik GI’s’ rivetting tales and trying to grasp all the court rulings of their various legal bids to stay, I couldn’t wait to be a witness of the first piece of really good news.
It’s a huge breakthrough — but it’s not a final victory, Lee Zaslofsky, coordinator of the War Resisters Support Campaign coordinator, reminds me.
On the bus, Zaslofsky, himself a resister from back in the Vietnam war days, is carrying on like a good parent. "Can we please try to use less colorful language?" he pleads listening to the f-word-studded dialogues of the young resisters.
It sure doesn’t bother me that former military guys swear like editors and lawyers. The ex-soliders are mostly bonding over military talk: “I got two greens and purple,’’ one of them says. Navy newlyweds, Meagan and Chris are here, lovebirding it up. Navy recruiters promised them in writing they’d be deployed together. But when they reported, they were immediately shipped to different sides of the country for basic training. Unbeknownst to them the Navy actually has a no couple policy. But recruiters lie, cheat and even sometimes go AWOL themselves.
There’s alot of military ribbing. Garret breaks out in a few Marine chants. In the middle seats, other resisters occasionally chide their colleagues to act civilian now.
The vote we are travelling all these miles to hear originated in the all-party House of Commons Standing Commiteee on Citizenship and Immigration in December 2007.
The Libs have wrung their hands on the issue for four years, only recently finding their inner Pierre Trudeau. Just in time to distance themselves slightly from the Tories on warmongering issues. Now, we are going to watch them finally do the right thing.
Afterwards, Liberal foreign affairs critic Bob Rae says the vote “is an expression of parliament. Parliament believes, the government should immediately cease any removal or deportation actions that may have already commenced against such individuals.’’
The War Resisters Support Campaign issues a statement “calling on the Conservative government to respect the democratic decision of the Canadian parliament.’’
The question is, will it?
“I think Mr. Harper will continue his White House policies,’’ NDP leader Jack Layton tells supporters on Tuesday, adding, “We’ll see what holds in the days to come.’’
He’s referring to the June 12 deportation order against resister Corey Glass, June 12. Will the folks responsible for war resisters’ deportation simply ignore Harper? Maybe they will be conveniently overworked and understaffed. During the Vietnam war, draft dodgers recognized early on that immigration officials weren’t asking for their draft status, giving them an easy ride in.
Will immigration border officials develop their own moral compass? If Harper is ignoring the will of parliament, will they pretend he’s not prime minister? Will they feign confusion?
Later in the day, Chow and Layton bestow honorary Canadian citizenship on the peace-GI’s in the basement of parliament.
To use Garret’s analysis, we have made the political playoffs. The beards are growing. Who’s gonna paint my chest?
The full text of Chow's speech on war resisters is here.