Renowned left-wing American documentary maker Michael Moore on Thursday blasted Canada’s position on U.S. war dodgers as shameful.
Speaking at the Toronto International Film Festival, Moore said Ottawa’s refusal to allow U.S. soldiers opposed to the war in Iraq to find safe haven in this country betrays what the country once stood for.
“It is absolutely shameful how Canada has behaved toward those who have resisted this war,” Moore said.
“It’s not the Canada that we used to know.”
Moore, who has produced several acclaimed documentaries, noted Canada was sympathetic to American soldiers who refused to fight in Vietnam in the 1970s.
Draft dodgers who fled the U.S. for Canada were allowed to stay here and many became productive citizens, even after they were allowed to return home.
“This country was so generous to those of my generation who did not want to kill Vietnamese and opened the doors,” Moore said.
“They stayed here, most of them, after clemency was granted, raised families here, became Canadians and contributed.”
Scores of American soldiers have deserted in opposition to the war on Iraq — some after deployment, others pre-deployment — and fled to Canada beginning more than six years ago.
None has been successful in seeking asylum in Canada, with bids for refugee status denied on the grounds that they would be prosecuted, not persecuted, if they returned to the U.S.
Their cases remain caught up in labyrinthine refugee hearings and various appeals.
Some who have gone back either voluntarily or after deportation have been jailed for desertion, but those who stay maintain they should not have to face punishment for opposing a war they call illegal.
The federal government has maintained the U.S. military is a volunteer defence force, in contrast to the forced draft that many young Americans faced in the Vietnam War era.
Still, the House of Commons, in a non-binding motion, called on the government in 2007 to allow those who refused to serve in Iraq on conscientious grounds to remain in Canada.
Bill C-440, currently before the Commons, would force the government to allow the deserting soldiers to apply for permanent residence in Canada.
Canada refused to join the U.S.-led war on Iraq, arguing it had no United Nations sanction.
Moore said Canadians are sympathetic to the war-dodger cause.
“Canadian people have a good heart and are a peaceful people,” he said.
“They’ve always seen themselves as people that want to try to negotiate peace but they’ve gotten caught up in participating in war.”
Moore’s latest film, “Capitalism: A Love Story,” released a year ago, looked at the financial crisis.
Other works include “Bowling for Columbine” and “Sicko.”