Refugees Are Welcome: So Should Those Who Refused to Kill Them

Readers of this blog will know I have supported Canada’s welcoming of legitimate refugees, fleeing death, destruction and horrible living conditions in world war zones.

And who can forget all those photo ops of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and federal Liberal cabinet ministers and MPS, who showed up … after alerting the media … to welcome Syrian, Iraqui and Afghan refugees into Canada.

Proof THIS is a compassionate country and society.

And the Liberals making it VERY clear that THEY are much more sympathetic to the plight of those fleeing illegitimate wars/conflicts than former  prime minister Stephen Harper and his Conservative government.

But so far, in my view, not sympathetic or compassionate enough.

There are 15 U.S. war resisters battling to stay in Canada …where they too sought REFUGE … unwilling to take part in their country’s military operations/attacks in Afghanistan and the Mid-East.

Of  course, to many, they deserve NO protection here:  they had voluntarily enlisted in the US military; they swore an oath to obey orders; and, they are officially now deserters.

However, it’s not that simple.

Some decided the U.S. military interventions were  morally indefensible; others HAD served honourably overseas … even repeat deployments … before coming to the conclusion the military actions were illegitimate, based on false information … even lies, and had personally witnessed the huge numbers of civilian casualties.

During the Iraq war, more than 200 resisters came to Canada. Most have returned or were deported back to the US … but just over a dozen sought refuge and permission to stay permanently.

Those remaining are NOT just cowards or shirkers from legitimate wars, where the US or Canada face a true existentialist threat … not even from ISIS  (no less than President Obama has said that): they are individuals who said they held true MORAL objections to US military actions … and have endured YEARS of isolation in churches that have extended refuge.

Harper/Tories were not impressed … or willing to let them stay, but Trudeau,  DURING the election campaign, said “I am supportive of the principle of allowing conscientious objectors to stay” and explained he wanted “to restore our sense of compassion of openness and a place that is a safe haven for people to come here.”

Time for Trudeau and the Liberal government to live up to that vow.

Harv Oberfeld

(Reminder: You can receive First Alerts of any new postings on this blog by following @harveyoberfeld on Twitter. No fees, no spam. )

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24 Responses to Refugees Are Welcome: So Should Those Who Refused to Kill Them

  1. morry says:

    Good post! I totally agree. It would be disingenuous not to grant REFUGE status to the war resistors. JT Grant them Access

  2. Gene The Bean says:

    Interesting topic – should be some good comments on this one.

    I view these folks just the same as economic migrants. I’ll explain…

    In the military for every action, there is a reaction, for every choice, there is a repercussion. These folks could have refused to be deployed or just refused to participate in anything – that was their choice. They did not do that, they ran away. It would mean at least jail, if not prison and a dishonourable discharge. Both very big strikes on your resume.

    They, like economic migrants, chose to try and game the system, to reap a benefit, with little or no repercussion. They hope to make ‘their’ issue, our issue. I don’t buy it, they should go to the back of the line with the economic migrants. They both chose to not work through or change ‘their’ situation from the inside and look to escape to something far ‘easier’ and with ‘more upside’ for them.

    I would respect them 110% if they stayed in the military, conscientiously objected and took their punishment. There are few if any free rides in life.

    We need properly vetted immigration, a good mixture of people from around the world willing to work hard for Canada and themselves. Real refugee’s are part of that mix. Economic migrants go to the back of the line in my opinion.

    These folks made a poor choice (enlistment, obviously not the right career path) and a poorer choice in deserting (which is a treasonous act, punished harshly and explained to every military recruit).

    There has to be some accountability….

    I don’t have the answer but bottom line Canada is not your mom’s basement…..

    (Response: I get your point, although I personally would not equate them with economic migrants … and, frankly, if it had turned out Saddam DID have weapons of mass destruction etc., I would not be sympathetic to them. But knowing what we know now…how we were all misled and even lied to, and in view of the totally unnecessary destruction of so much of Iraq …physically, politically, socially … I view them differently. Dishonourable discharge might be one solution on the US side of the border, but if they are indeed facing prison there for refusing to participate …or go for a THIRD deployment over there… Canada should give them a haven. h.o)

  3. 13 says:

    If we elected JT and this was one of his 400 campaign promises and it only pertains to a dozen
    objectors then so be it.
    My personal feelings dont even have to be aired because once you elect a JT you are stuck with a JT
    This could be good ground work for the tsunami of American refugees we will receive when DJT becomes the new president.

  4. Diverdarren says:

    Harvey, I can understand your feelings of compassion for the soldiers caught in this situation of believing they will be persecuted for their decisions when they return to the US.

    But, an individual’s feeling are not how we make decisions regarding international relations. We are a nation of laws, not personal feelings.

    I could bore you with a recap of the laws and court decisions regarding these cases, but the bottom line is the law is the law.

    Were Trudeau to interfere in ongoing court cases and shelter these individuals from the jurisdiction of the US it would be a complete abuse of power by the PM.

    You and others may say that the US war in Iraq was an illegal war, but others say it was a legal war. That’s a debate issue, not the basis for Canada’s policy towards our closest ally. There is no recognized international decision stating the war was outside of the law, and there is no legitimate claim that the US has an unjust justice system in place for prosecuting deserters. (that’s not to say that there no compelling argument that the war was unjust, but until there is an official rebuke the war it’s all just opinion)

    If the PM unilaterally or even parliamentary usurped this decision from the courts and made a defacto deceleration the the US war in Iraq was unjust, thus making the war deserters into political refugees, this would do two things;
    1. demonstrate to the world that Canada was no better than a two-bit dictatorship that disregards the doctrine of “separation of powers”.
    2. needlessly damage our relations to the Americans.

    The plight of these “war resisters” aren’t worth the damage to our national reputation.

    (Response: Have you forgotten the THOUSANDS we allowed to stay here … including draft dodgers and deserters …from the Viet Nam war? If we could accept THOUSANDS from that conflict…I see no problem in allowing the 15 who refused to take part in the Iraqi conflict etc. and have already been here for years! h.o)

  5. nonconfidencevote says:


    “This could be good ground work for the tsunami of American refugees we will receive when DJT becomes the new president.”

    gaaaaaaaa! Noooooooooo!

    Perhaps “13” has a point.
    Maybe the Feds dont want to set a precedent.

    Whats next? Accepting concientious objectors from ISIS? (sorry for my Devils advocacy but…… where would it end with the immigration lawyers lining up at the trough)

    (Response: It is not an easy issue. We did accept many thousands fleeing the Viet Nam War, including deserters, and a lot of them are still here, contributing well to their new country; and we already have accepted refugees fleeing from ISIS …including some who no doubt feared being conscripted or killed if they refused. The challenge, of course, is to maintain Canada’s principles and security in deciding who to accept …and in the given circumstances, unless there are security or past criminal record issues involved, I think we could let these 15 stay without any problems … other than the American government not liking it. Maybe we could call it our own version of a “dry foot” policy”. h.o)

  6. Harry Lawson says:


    You raise great points in your post and your responses .

    Perhaps prime minister t rudeau could make a personal request to president Obama to pardon and discharge these people . Then then if granted problem resolved . If not do the right thing and let them contribute to Canada.

    (Response: I can’t see ANY US President …while their country is still involved actively in conflicts … granting a pardon to any “deserter”. h.o.)

  7. Toby says:

    Good post Harvey. The issue is not about the defense of Canada or even the defense of the United States. It is about soldiers who developed (somewhat belatedly) a conscience. Refusing to fight the Bush/Blair war for oil and pipelines should be respected.

    (Response: I would not give blanket welcome to any soldiers who desert, even from foreign wars/conflicts. Each case deserves individual consideration … but I think these 15 remaining …out of the original 200 who fled to Canada …likely meet my criteria for conscientious objectors more than deserters. h.o.)

  8. E. Johnson says:

    Have to disagree with you on this matter Harvey. These soldiers made a choice based on their personal beliefs knowing full well how it would be viewed by the powers that be in their country. They must return to the US and face those consequences. Mohammed Ali made a similar decision during an era when there were far less sympathies for such choices. Although he did not serve time in jail he was certainly prepared to do so. These war resisters should think about following his example.

    (Response: I respect your view on this …had to think about it quite a lot myself. But I feel their decisions deserve special consideration in view of: what we now know about the conflict in Iraq etc. and all the lies we were told about those weapons of mass destruction; the punishments they’ve already endured… in sanctuaries they have been unable to leave for years, their separation from family/friends; being ostracized/condemned by many and their inability to ever (or at least for a very long time) to be able to return to their own country. h.o)

  9. e.a.f. says:

    support your opinion as outlined in this post. Trudeau ought to grant these people refugee status. The Americans have been mired in this war and its not an “honest” war. They went into it, with less than “honest” information: check G.B.’s report on it.

    We had thousands of draft doggers/deserters stay in Canada during the Vietnam war, and we did well by accepting them. Many became social workers, teachers, doctors, nurses, etc. We got a lot of good people.

    As to the thousands or even millions who may come if Trump wins, I’m o.k. with that too, just check in their weapons at the border and I’ll be happy to hand them a medical card. Oh, they do have to take the Canadian I.Q. test.

  10. Lew says:

    Harvey, it’s interesting to note that the Prime Minister you now suggest should welcome U.S. armed forces personnel who have deserted or object to going to war for whatever reason had a daddy who was also Prime Minister during a large part of the time 40,000 U.S. draft dodgers evading the Vietnam war were welcomed into Canada. Pierre himself was accused of ducking the Second World War and playing a prank in 1942 by riding around in Quebec wearing a First World War German military helmet.

    What I wonder about is how the Canadian government could possibly prosecute one of its own soldiers for desertion after welcoming deserters from another country.

    (Response: I think the circumstances of “desertion” must always be considered. I, for example, would not have objected if Canada had accepted German soldiers during WW II who refused to take part in military’s actions if they saw things they really considered unconscionable. h.o.)

  11. BMCQ says:

    Interesting Commentary Harvey.

    Having said that I cannot agree with anything you propose on this topic.

    The U.S. is our most important Ally and in my opinion we should only NOT offer U.S. Military Deserters, not Resistors haven we should send them back to The U.S. for Prosecution/Military Court Marshall if requested.

    We would expect the same would we not?

    I agree with much of what NonCon, Lew and Bean have said on this topic.

    I almost always agree with your original Topic Posts although I may be a little more hard line on some issues when it comes to Crime and Punishment.

    Again, I cannot concur with you on this one but I am guessing that most of your regular Participants will agree with you.!

    Bean – 5

    Your Post here is amazingly well written and you have nailed it 100% and in my opinion it is one of the top five Posts I have read since I began to participate here in July 2014!!

    Well thought out common sense, wonderful logic, thought provoking and an excellent job of writing!!

    I especially like the points of “Accountability” and “Canada is not your Mom’s Basement”!

    Your Post should be re-printed in every Newspaper, Blog, and other Internet Outlet right across North America.

    The Canadian Prime Minister, Minister of Immigration, The U.S. President, every other Elected Politician at every Level of Government, and every Resident/Citizen of Canada and The U.S. should read and digest what you have said here!!

    I am well aware you do not read my Posts so I hope a friend points out to you that I gave you an “Adda Boy” today!

    e.a.f. – 9

    If DJT becomes U.S. and we all of a sudden have a Flood of thousands like George Clooney, Whoopi, Sharpton, Sarandon, Military Deserters,and others by the thousands crossing the Border into Canada WE WILL BUILD A WALL!

    Harvey will pay for it!

  12. Hawgwash says:

    My thoughts were pretty much covered by Gene The Bean, Driverdarren and the ever grounded Lew. I could add nothing more.

    That is until i read your reply to Lew which is a complete red herring.
    The era and mentalities of WW II were so completely different that no one could say how they would have reacted to such a notion.

    It is always easy to play quarterback after the game and say what we would have done in an event we had zero part in.

    All one need do is remember the Trump style of the day and the rounding up of the peaceful, contributing Japanese folks on our coast; most of whom were citizens of this country.

    (Response: I think my comments to Lew says it best ..and I stand by that position. And I suspect most Canadians would agree and would support letting them stay. h.o)

  13. Lew says:

    Harvey, I agree with your response. Big difference between abandoning your unit in theatre and simply refusing to get on the plane to go to what one considers an unjust war.

    It does point out the requirement for a specific policy and a means of determining the exact status of the individual(s) seeking refuge, however. We should know what the ground rules of our country are up front and not have to rely on ad hoc measures inevitably leading to controversy and confusion.

    (Response: It really does depend on the circumstances. Everyone participating in this blog, or even reading, owes a GREAT DEAL to our veterans who DID face grave danger and lost many, many friends defending our liberties. No one WANTS to go to war and risk or give up their lives …but sometimes there really IS no other choice ..IF the cause is just and truly to defend our country and our freedoms. The Iraq war did not fulfill either of those requisites … so that’s why, in this very limited case, I’d let them stay. h.o)

  14. EllBee says:

    “If DJT becomes U.S. and we all of a sudden have a Flood of thousands like George Clooney, Whoopi, Sharpton, Sarandon, Military Deserters,and others by the thousands crossing the Border into Canada WE WILL BUILD A WALL!”

    You’d have a lot more than that. You’d have military personnel who won’t follow the unlawful orders of a madman. Mussolini and AH were both elected FIRST.

  15. Hawgwash says:

    One of the biggest criticisms Canadians have of the US is that they are far too eager to meddle in the affairs of other nations.

    Nothing wrong with being compassionate diplomats in this case but outright refuge?

    The slope is far too slippery for that.

  16. e.a.f. says:

    If Trump becomes president, BMCQ, it won’t be the “stars” who come. They can go anywhere. What we will see is military personnel who won’t do what Trump wants them to do and that may include more than one General and all sorts of rank and file.

    The Republican platform is very anti GLBTQ, etc. Should the Republicans take the House and Senate along with the Presidency we could expect to see millions of LGBTQ people arrive at our border. if you’ve seen Trump’s list of proposed supreme court justices, some of them are down right homophobic, hence do expect some of their military to come along for refugee status. With a population of 350M and approx. 10% of any population being BLTGQ you can figure out the rest.

    Many of Latino decent may not be willing to go to Mexico or Central and South America, so north they will come also. (many no longer speak Spanish or Portugese so Canada would be a better choice for them.) Then add in Muslims who can expect huge problems, we could expect mass refugee influxes. Sort of like Europe has and is experiencing.

    Trump doesn’t understand even what pushing the nuclear button could result in. (yes they tried to brief him)

  17. morry says:

    Some commentators are very harsh and quick to condemn these Men who refused to return to the war that they no longer believed in.

    “Some decided the U.S. military interventions were morally indefensible; others HAD served honourably overseas … even repeat deployments … before coming to the conclusion the military actions were illegitimate, based on false information … even lies, and had personally witnessed the huge numbers of civilian casualties.”

    They are not deserters in the sense that they escaped the battlefield, … they refused to return for duty, and crossed into Canada. They didn’t have doctors that found they had heel spurs, also known as Trumpitis. For those that condemn them feel free to take their place or send your sons and daughters in their stead.

  18. 13 says:

    I was trying to avoid giving an opinion as some of my friends in the late sixties and early seventies were draft dodgers. Hippie types that worked at McDs and lived in the West End.

    These soldiers are not draft dodgers they are deserters. In my younger days I was far more liberal in my outlook. Today not so much. Send them back to the USA.

    Did the exe KGB agent ever get out of the church he was holed up in?

    (Response: My understanding is that Lennikov left Canada last Fall, after 6 years in sanctuary in a Vancouver church …but the current Liberal government is now considering letting him rejoin his wife/kids who remained in Canada. h.o)

  19. BMCQ says:

    I spoke to a friend yesterday that served in the Canadian Armed Forces and the Canadian Coast Guard.

    He tells me that whenever the conversation of offering U.S. Military Deserters Safe Haven in Canada comes up with any of his current or former Canadian Forces Friends he gets an immediate and unanimous “NO Way”! He also feels the same way.

    OF course there could be many outside his immediate circle that agree with the idea of offering those same people Canadian Residency.

    What I have stated is obviously just one mans opinion and his statement regarding some friends.

    Ell – 14

    e.a.f. – 16


    I would add something here but I am quite sure I would be Edited and Off Topic.

  20. EllBee says:

    BCMQ 17. It’s also anecdotal. There are several US military on the record that have already stated that they would not follow Trump’s stated illegal commands.

  21. BMCQ says:

    Ell – 20

    Each U.S., Canadian, Swiss, or any other Countries Administration regardless of Party has their own Policies once they take Office.

    In the meantime all we can do is listen to a given Parties Platform and Vote accordingly based on what we feel is best for our own interests.

    We in Canada just recently went through that process during our own Federal Election Campaign.

    Like MOST New Governments PM Trudeau will break many of those Promises.

    I am going to guess that he will allow the U.S. Deserters to stay in Canada.

    Because uh, it is uh, 2016 ah.

    Just a guess uh on my ah part.

  22. 13 says:

    @morry. I believe that for all of the above reasons that these men (women) should be sent back to the USA to deal with any charges that have been brought against them.
    I cant for any reason see your lodgic. I dont feel that I should take their place . Not on any battlefield and not seeking refuge in a foreign country. Those that feel that laws should be enforced do not need to place themselves in the shoes of a law breaker to appease your liberal sense of non justice.

  23. Europeans have been welcoming to migrants ans ‘refugees’ and look what they have received in return…

  24. By fitting into our labor market, complementing existing American workers, and not consuming welfare benefits, Syrian refugees will help the economy grow. hurting them.  Our immigration restrictions are making a humanitarian catastrophe even worse by preventing them from saving their own lives. Let’s get out of the way and let them do that while empowering those among us to voluntarily lend a helping hand.

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