Canada has failed a U.S. war resister who has spent the last three months claiming sanctuary inside the First United Church, a former federal Liberal leadership candidate said yesterday.
Gerard Kennedy, MP for Parkdale-Highpark (Ontario), met with Rodney Watson, a U.S. army deserter who has lived inside the Downtown Eastside church to avoid deportation since mid-September.
Kennedy, who came fourth in the 2006 Liberal leadership race, has introduced a private member’s bill to amend the Immigration Act. It would allow U.S. resisters of the Iraq War to stay in Canada on compassionate grounds.
“It’s about a Canadian sensibility,” Kennedy said. “We’re friends with the Americans, but we can’t really be friends if we can’t disagree with them.”
Kennedy, whose bill comes before Parliament in February or March, said the tradition of allowing conscientious objectors to stay in Canada dates back to the 1960s.
Watson, whose Canadian son celebrated his first birthday yesterday, came to Canada in 2006 after he was “stop-lossed” — his military contract was extended and he would have been returned to a war zone in Iraq or Afghanistan.
There are believed to be a couple hundred war resisters in Canada, said Sarah Bjorknas with the War Resisters Support Campaign. Three have been deported.