Canada should honour its policies

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

“War resisters” " people who come to Canada to avoid military duty in Iraq " have received far less attention than those involved in similar movements in the past. However, since Canada is taking a relatively unsympathetic view toward them, and with roughly two arriving in the country every week, the issue deserves attention.

It seems today’s slippery Canadian political identity makes us unsure of whether we should still stand by the international policy principles of the ’60s and ’70s. A war resisters’ website quotes not a current politician, but the late Pierre Trudeau, who said, “our political approach has been to give [war resisters] access to Canada. Canada should be a refuge from militarism.”

The very fact invokes a quote from a past era speaks volumes about how the Canadian political scene has changed. Today, the primary actors in the Canadian government aren’t as engaged or as proactive in international peace efforts as they were in the Trudeau or Pearson eras. We are now, for the most part, complacent.

But the people seeking refuge from a war they don’t believe in deserve our support. This isn’t to say those who give their lives to military service don’t deserve our utmost respect " they absolutely do.

Asking a person to risk their life in a fight they don’t believe in " a fight that has been internationally acknowledged as illegitimate " is unfair and unjust. Canada chose not to support the war in Iraq. Denying refuge to people who agree with this choice is hypocritical.

When the government declared it wouldn’t support the war, it was articulating what it felt echoed the sentiments of most Canadians. By turning away war resisters, the government lends tacit support to a war it acknowledged most Canadians didn’t want.

For Western students, the issue is close to home. Tim Richard, a Western music student, came to Canada to avoid participating in the Iraq war, which he considers immoral.

Matt Lowell, another war resister and London resident, is here avoiding the same war. When he enlisted, he wanted to fight terrorism, but when he came to Canada, it was because he was upset over the seemingly unsubstantiated war in Iraq.

Those who enlist in the army have a responsibility to it, but the Canadian government also has a responsibility to stand by its international policy principles and grant these men refuge from a war it doesn’t support.

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