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Activist Communique: Support grows for war resister Kim Rivera

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On Thursday, August 30, 2012, Iraq War resister Kim Rivera received notice of her impending deportation on September 20, 2012.

The deportation order means that Kim Rivera, her husband Mario and her four children (two of whom were born in Canada) must leave the country and face an uncertain future in the United States; most likely without their mother as she will face a court martial for desertion for her refusal to fight in the Iraq war.

Based on other war resister prosecutions, she faces at least a year in prison and a felony conviction, which can severely limit someone’s ability to find work in the United States. 

Kim Rivera was an Army Private from Texas where she grew up proud of the American way of life. It was her experiences in the Iraq theatre of war that sparked a radical change in her consciousness, leading her to purposefully miss her unit's plane trip back to the Middle East in 2007.

She is the first female Iraq war resister to seek refugee status in Canada on February 18, 2007, along with her husband and family. Her lawyer, Alyssa Manning, has argued in federal court that Rivera would likely face a court martial and the possibly up to five years if she is deported back to the United States.

It has been a long fight for the Rivera family to stay in Canada and they have made a home and a life for themselves in Parkdale, Toronto.

Kim Rivera has spoken out against the U.S. government and the Iraq war, a decision which puts her at further risk for prosecution.

According to Michelle Robidoux, a spokesperson for the War Resisters Support Campaign (WRSC). “(Kim) faces a court martial and jail sentence, which, based on what other people have gotten, is a harsh jail sentence,” Robidoux said. “She will be separated from her family. Her husband suffers from a disability and he’s going to have four kids on his hands.”

While Manning stated that 94 per cent of war resisters from the U.S. military get administrative discharges, or essentially are kicked out, she asserted that those who speak out against the U.S. government face harsher penalties. Rivera has spoken out against the Iraq war and the U.S. government on multiple occasions.

In this case, the government on Canada has issued her deportation order without waiting for the decision on her humanitarian and compassionate grounds application.

On Friday, September 14, 2012, the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) issued a decision saying the removal of the Rivera family would not be deferred because the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration would not be making a decision in the Riveras' application for humanitarian and compassionate consideration any time soon.

According to the War Resister Support Campaign, “Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) guidelines say that decisions on H&C grounds applications should take an average of 36 months. Given the special attention that CIC has put on the cases of U.S. war resister, as indicated by Operational Bulletin 202, the fact that no decision has been made three years after Kimberly Rivera's H&C application was submitted suggests that the Minister is dragging this case out.”

Kim Rivera and her family have received support from the Canadian public and from Canadian Parliament. A 2008 Angus Reid poll showed that sixty four per cent of Canadians want U.S. conscientious objectors to the Iraq war to remain in Canada.

Parliament has also voted twice to allow American war resisters to stay, passing non-binding motions on June 3, 2008 and March 30, 2009; though Harper’s conservative government has ignored these directives.

Peggy Nash (NDP) issued a statement last week regarding Kim Rivera’s case, stating, “Canadians have always given people fleeing unjust wars. It’s part of our values and our history as a country. Kim Rivera and her family should be allowed to stay.”

According to Lee Zaslofsky, of the WRSC and a Vietnam resister himself, he believes that Canada has a certain historical legacy to live up to by accepting war resisters.

It was Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau and the Liberal Party who opened Canada's doors during the Vietnam War to thousands of Americans war resisters, who were often motivated by the same feeling of objection to an unjust and illegal war. During the Vietnam War, more than 50,000 young Americans came to Canada as war resisters.

"Of course, Canada's legacy extends back further to the [American] Civil War and before that when slaves came north via the underground railroad, and even before that with the United Empire Loyalists, so there is sort of a Canadian tradition of welcoming dissenters from the United States and this is another part of that," Zaslofsky explains.

The power of war resisters lies in their refusal to fight; their negation of a military system that dishonours its own soldiers and violates international law.

These resisters are warriors not because they are soldiers trained to kill, but because they are individuals who are strong enough to defend their moral beliefs despite the threat of severe penalty. They are warriors because they refuse to fight. Their courage lies in their resistance.

Reverend Desmond Tutu wrote an editorial in Monday’s Globe and Mail expressing his support for Kim Rivera. 

Referencing the historical landscape back in early 2000s, Tutu wrote, “When the United States and Britain made the case in 2003 for the invasion of Iraq, it was on the basis of a lie. We were told that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction, and that these weapons posed an imminent threat to humanity… But those who were called to fight this war believed what their leaders had told them.”

It was under this deliberate fog of war that obscured the truth about the presence of weapons of mass destruction that a nation wounded was a nation that reacted. The U.S., regardless of who chose to join them, declared war. And with the U.S. government, U.S. citizens did the same.  But times change and the truth reveals itself.

These war resisters such as Kim Rivera were ordinary soldiers who made the choice to enter the military on what many claim were false pretenses, and are now choosing to leave it, dignity intact.

They eventually chose not to participate in a war where in its smudgy conclusion, the total cost included 110,000 Iraqis deaths since 2003, millions displaced and nearly 4,500 American soldiers killed.

Desmond in his editorial makes a plea to understand the kind of courage it takes for someone to admit they made a mistake and change their mind. While the U.S. government has not shown such courage, Kim Rivera has.

“It is large-hearted and courageous people who are not diminished by saying: ‘I made a mistake.’ Not least among these are Ms. Rivera and the other American war resisters who determined they could not in good conscience continue to be part of the Iraq war.”

Their bravery should be rewarded -- by letting them stay. Welcome home, Kim.

**

There is an emergency demo for Kim Rivera in Toronto tomorrow from 4:30 pm to 6:00 pm in front of the Federal Court on 180 Queen Street West. For a list of rallies in other cities, go to http://resisters.ca/support-the-rivera-family/.

As of Tuesday morning, nearly 19,000 people had signed a petition urging Minister Kenney to grant the Rivera family's H&C application.

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