TORONTO—With less than two days left before Kimberly Rivera and her family, including two Canadian children, must leave Canada or be deported, supporters of the US Iraq War resister are calling on Immigration Minister Jason Kenney to stop delaying and make a decision on the Rivera family’s three-year-old application to stay in Canada on humanitarian and compassionate grounds (H&C).
As of Tuesday morning, nearly 19,000 people had signed a petition urging Minister Kenney to grant the Rivera family's H&C application.
During a news conference in Toronto on Tuesday afternoon, a group of prominent Canadians released a statement calling on Minister Kenney to "do the right thing and allow Kimberly Rivera and her family to stay in Canada":
"We the undersigned support conscientious objector Kimberly Rivera and her family who are threatened with imminent deportation from Canada on September 20. Kim deployed to Iraq in 2006 and sought asylum in Canada in 2007. She faces a court martial and up to five years in military prison for refusing to participate any longer in the Iraq war -- a war which had no legal sanction. Kim would be separated from her four young children, two of whom were born in Canada. A felony conviction would mean a lifetime of difficulty finding employment. We call on the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism Jason Kenney to do the right thing and allow Kimberly Rivera and her family to stay in Canada."
Andy Barrie, broadcaster and Vietnam War resister
Dan Bar-El, award-winning children’s author
Maude Barlow, author and activist
Maev Beaty, actor
Shirley Douglas, O.C., actor
Dennis Foon, award-winning writer
Richard Greenblatt, playwright/actor
Ron Hawkins, musician
Naomi Klein, author
Ron Kovic, author, Born on the Fourth of July
Avi Lewis, filmmaker
Peter Showler, Director, the Refugee Forum, University of Ottawa; former chair of the Immigration and Refugee Board
Jack Todd, journalist and Vietnam War resister
Alexandre Trudeau, filmmaker
"Canadians' support for conscientious objectors to the Iraq War, and for the Rivera family specifically, has been overwhelming," said Michelle Robidoux, spokesperson for the War Resisters Support Campaign. "If it was up to the Canadian people, there is no doubt that the Rivera family would be allowed to stay in this country. We are appealing today to Jason Kenney to stop a great injustice from being done, by approving Kimberly Rivera's application to stay in Canada on humanitarian and compassionate grounds."
"Like Kim Rivera, I am a war resister who developed an issue of conscience after witnessing events in Iraq and sought protection in Canada," said Chuck Wiley, a 17-year veteran of the U.S. military. “Kim's actions were based in conscience, and her own understanding of the Nuremberg Principles, the Geneva Conventions, and the balance of international law. She took these principles seriously, and hoped and expected that Canada still did the same as it has for generations."
"I arrived in Canada as a Vietnam War resister, and I have been welcomed and embraced by Canadians," said Bill King, Artistic Director of the Beaches International Jazz Festival in Toronto. "Kim Rivera made the same difficult decision I did. Minister Kenney and Prime Minister Harper, please show us that strong leaders are compassionate and allow her to stay."
On Friday, September 14, 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.
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 US 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.
In 2010, the Federal Court of Appeal found that evidence of conscientious objection is an important matter which must be considered in a humanitarian and compassionate grounds application.
Instead of deciding H&C grounds applications per the court's decision, Minister Kenney has interfered in the process by issuing a prejudicial operational directive that "misstates the law and seeks to intrude on the independence of" decision-makers by requiring immigration officers to "seek guidance" from headquarters regarding the files of Iraq War resisters, and he is now trying to deport the Rivera family without a H&C grounds application decision.
Yesterday, the Rivera family's lawyer was in Federal Court arguing for a stay of deportation and a judicial review of Kim Rivera's August 30, 2012 Pre-Removal Risk Assessment (PRRA) decision.
In August of 2009 the Federal Court quashed Kim Rivera's December 2008 PRRA, finding that the decision failed to properly assess the risk of differential punishment faced by absentee soldiers, like Kim, who are outspoken critics of the Iraq War.
Despite the three years that it took Citizenship and Immigration Canada officials to reconsider the December 2008 decision, as ordered by the Federal Court in August 2009, the PRRA officer has made a similar error to that which led the court to quash the first decision: failing to properly assess the risk of differential punishment based on public conscientious objection to the Iraq War.
Also on Monday, The Globe and Mail published an opinion-editorial by Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu in which the Nobel Peace Laureate called on the Government of Canada to stop its efforts to deport conscientious objectors to the invasion and occupation of Iraq.
Today, Rodney Watson -- a decorated U.S. soldier who served in Iraq, was stop-lossed and came to Canada in 2006 -- is marking his third anniversary of accepting sanctuary in Vancouver's First United Church.
Amnesty International Canada promoted an "urgent action," on Tuesday, asking Canadians to call Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney to prevent Kim Rivera from becoming a prisoner of conscience.