TORONTO - An American war resister one step away from being extradited to the United States has learned she'll get to stay in Canada a little longer.

A judge has ordered a new pre-removal risk assessment for Kimberly Rivera, a 27-year-old mother of three who deserted the U.S. army in 2007 because of her opposition to the war in Iraq.

"It was like a complete relief," the first female U.S. soldier in Iraq to flee to Canada said in a phone interview Tuesday, after learning of Judge James Russell's decision.

Rivera made what easily could have been her final appearance in a Canadian courtroom in July, when her lawyer argued that the review of the risk assessment - compiled by the Ministry of Citizenship and Immigration - was severely flawed.

On Tuesday, Russell tossed out the existing review, ruling it contained "no meaningful examination" of whether Rivera would face targeted prosecution for having spoken out against the war in Iraq - a major concern for Rivera's defence team.

Had the ruling gone against her, Rivera would likely have been deported to the United States, where she could face a court martial and a potential prison sentence.

Rivera's children played loudly in the background Tuesday afternoon, as she spoke of her surprise at the legal victory.

"We normally just tell them (the kids) the bad news, and get them prepped on what's going to happen after that," said Rivera.

"But I'll probably end up telling them later tonight."

Rivera had enlisted in March 2006 and was deployed to Iraq, where one of her main duties was to search suspicious vehicles at checkpoints.

She soon became disillusioned with the mission, and in February 2007, while on leave in the United States, she crossed into Canada.

Rivera was granted her first stay of deportation this March.

Tuesday's decision means Rivera could have as much as another six months in Canada, said Michelle Robidoux, spokeswoman for the War Resisters Support Campaign.

Robidoux said they would use the coming months to continue lobbying the federal government to grant U.S. war resisters safe haven in the country.

In 2008, all parties except for the Conservatives adopted a non-binding motion urging that American military resisters be allowed to stay in Canada.

The motion was adopted a second time this March.

"What we're working on now is a private member's bill that would make the gist of that motion . . . into law," said Robidoux.

"When Parliament resumes that will be, for us, the order of the day."

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