The Supreme Court of Canada's decision on November 15 not to hear the refugee appeal of war resisters Jeremy Hinzman and Brandon Hughey prompted anguished cries from the anti-war community.
But is it really all over for the refusenik soldiers who've sought refuge here after ducking what they deem an immoral war in Iraq?
Depends on how you see federal politics unfolding in the near future.
In the wake of the court ruling, NDP MP Olivia Chow, supported by the Bloc, attempted to pass a motion in the Standing Committee on Immigration and Citizenship on Tuesday, November 20, granting special immigration status to Iraq war resisters.
But led by MP Jim Karygiannis, committee Liberals were obviously unable to find their inner Trudeau. They moved deferral of Chow's motion and replaced it with a successful motion to hold hearings on the matter before the year is out. (Liberal committee members and a spokesperson for Stéphane Dion did not respond to calls.)
The good news is that war resisters and supporters will be given an opportunity to testify, something resister and Toronto resident Phil McDowell, who attended the committee meeting, is looking forward to.
"We'll give them an understanding of what we're doing here. I think we can make a great case," says McDowell, who served in Iraq for a year but made his way to Canada when he was deployed again.
It's not clear, though, whether this will make any difference for Hinzman and Hughey. Resister lawyer Jeffry House says it'll be six months or so before the two are "put in chains and forcibly removed." Their last legal formality will be a risk assessment to determine if they'll be tortured or put to death if returned to U.S. military custody.
The final removal order has to be signed by the minister of immigration and citizenship, but some hold out hope that in the months ahead that might not be the current minister, Diane Finley.
"There could be a whole new government," says an optimistic Chow.
What will befall the two if they are returned? "They will be deported into the hands of people who are going to be extremely hostile to them," says anti-war movement veteran and former California state senator Tom Hayden, who's been drumming up support for Hinzman and Hughey stateside since the Supreme Court announcement.
It's not really clear how the military will deal with their cases. At the U.S. Consulate, spokesperson Nick Giacobbe says, "No one will serve time for desertion.'
But House is doubtful. "Someone will do a study in four or five years from now and find out most got jail sentences."
Each soldier has unique circumstances. In 2006, Darrell Anderson, wounded in Iraq and living in Toronto, turned himself in at Fort Knox and scored a mere dishonourable discharge. At least one former temporary Canadian who returned to the U.S., Ivan Brobeck, was sentenced to an eight-month term in a military prison (he only served two).
Without a political solution, those active in support work say, resisters will slip into Canada and remain silent. Some might stay five years and apply for landed resident status. Ironically, Hinzman might have been eligible if he'd stayed out of the political fray for another year, says House. "If resisters don't feel Canadian institutions can offer protection, Americans will stay illegally."
But if it comes to deportation, Hinzman and Hughey definitely won't hide, he says.
"I don't think anyone is going to comply willingly. But they're not going to slink back to America. They're going to let the Canadian people see them go," House promises.