Huron speaker incites debate

Kenney defends stance on war resistors

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

Protester holding a sign reading Listen to the Nation, Stop the Deportations

Kelly MacQuarrie

SENDING A MESSAGE. A small group of protesters lined outside of Huron University College’s Great Hall yesterday to display their objections with speaker Jason Kenney — Canadian Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism — who was delivering a lecture yesterday afternoon.

Jason Kenney, Canadian Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism, came to Huron University College yesterday as part of the Huron council’s Canadian Leaders Speaker Series and was faced with some verbal backlash.

Kenney was on campus to discuss the integration and education of immigrants and the maintenance of a Canadian identity. His arrival gave students the opportunity to express concerns they may have felt about the deportation of American war resistors and Canadian discrimination against minority groups.

Multiple protestors greeted Kenney both inside and outside of Huron, demanding the minister end the deportation of former American soldiers.

“I respect the political views of the people involved [with the protest] but I think it would be a big mistake to override our own courts to say that deserters of a voluntary military service in a democratic country can be refugees,” Kenney said in regards to the protesters.

Addressing the issue of war deserters, Kenney pointed out that condemning Canadian soldiers for fleeing the war yet protecting those in the American military doing the same, would be hypocritical.

“If you are concerned about American citizens who come to Canada illegally in violation of our laws ... If you are concerned of what fate they face south of the border, I would strongly recommend you take that up with [U.S. President Barack Obama’s] administration,” Kenney said.

Kenney also mentioned by protecting voluntary American war resistors Canada would be picking and choosing which laws to follow based on the political fashion of the day.

“Now if there are former members of the American military that want to come here as applicants to be candidates for a skilled for work category or apply for a visitor’s visa, I’m happy to make sure my department receives and gives fair consideration to [their] application,” Kenney added.

Jason Kennedy

Citing statements made by the United Nations, Kenney said Canada’s refugee system is very fair and robust and he does not have the power to allow war deserters to stay illegally in Canada.

However, not everyone agreed with Kenney’s position.

Josh Randall, a prospective Western student, was so upset with Kenney’s statements he lost his temper and yelled profanities at the minister, before storming out and leaving onlookers shocked.

“[Kenney] tried to say that the Canadian refugee law is the same as the [United Nations’] refugee law, which is actually not true,” Randall said after Kenney’s speech.

“He showed a certain amount of ignorance and contempt towards the majority of Canadians,” Adam Malloy, a fourth-year social justice and peace studies student at King’s University College, noted.

Malloy was one of the few who continued to protest with signs after the presentation.

“[Kenney] talked about the refugee determination process as something that would be arbitrary in order to show any compassion towards these war resisters and that is also inaccurate,” Malloy added.

“He does have the power. He said that there would need to be some super power he would have to have in order to overturn the parliamentary process, but that’s inaccurate because there are grounds for compassion he could have taken in intervening in these cases for war resisters.”

When the Immigration and Refugee Board has ruled a war deserter is not a refugee, Kenney insisted they are violating Canadian law and the matter is out of his hands.

“When [American war deserters] come up [to Canada] with the intention of staying in Canada permanently without a visa, without proper visa status, they are in violation of our law,” Kenney concluded.

“My obligation is to enforce the law.”

" With files from Jaclyn Haggarty

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