Kim Rivera – the first female Iraq war resister to seek sanctuary in Canada – has been ordered deported.
The War Resister Support Campaign has confirmed that on Thursday August 30, 2012, Rivera received notice of her impending deportation set to occur on September 20, 2012 by Citizenship and Immigration Canada facilitated through the Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA).
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 in February 18, 2007, along with her husband and family. She now lives with her family of four in Toronto, Canada; two of her four children are Canadian born.
Rivera’s first attempt at securing sanctuary in Canada by applying for refugee status was denied by the Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB) in 2007 and it was believed that Rivera had exhausted all her options back in 2009 when she was ordered to leave Canada by March 26, 2009. But she has managed to remain in Canada with the support of her lawyer and community members as she appealed the government’s decision. On August 11, 2009, she was granted a new “Pre Removal Risk Assessment” hearing with a new officer.
From lawyer Alyssa Manning, “Justice Russell found that the Pre-Removal Risk Assessment Officer did not address properly the risk of differential punishment on the basis of political opinion and the evidence put forward in support of that risk.”
Her last hope still pending are an appeal of the decision to federal court or appeal to the CBSA to wait for the decision on her 2009 Humanitarian and Compassionate Grounds application.
“In the humanitarian application they have to consider the best interests of the Rivera children, which is not a consideration in the assessment by the immigration officer,” Manning said. “There are four minor children here, two of which are Canadian. Those interests haven’t been considered yet.”
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.
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 deserters 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.
Robin Long was the first Iraq war resister to be deported from Canada in July, 2008. He sought refuge in B.C., refusing to fight in what he still considers an illegal and immoral war.
Long was given a dishonourable discharge from the US military and sentenced by court martial to fifteen months in prison; the longest desertion sentence since the beginning of the Iraq war. As conditional to his deportation, Long cannot re-enter Canada to visit his girlfriend or son for the next ten years from his sentencing date.
Pvt. Daniel Sandate lived in Canada for almost two years before alerting the Canadian government of his presence after a suicide attempt. He did not leave the army for reasons of conscience, but because he suffered from a debilitating metal illness. Pvt. Sandate received an eight month sentence and a bad conduct discharge, stripping him of any veterans’ benefits. Sandate completed his sentence and was released from the brig at Ft. Sill on January 20, 2009.
Cliff Cornell, a specialist in the U.S. Army, was ordered deported from Canada in February 2009, after being denied refugee status. He crossed the border and turned himself in at Fort Stewart. He had deserted his unit, he said, because he couldn’t follow through on military training orders to shoot civilians and armed combatants alike. Cliff Cornell served eleven months (reduced from one year) and was released on January 16, 2010.
The War Resister Support Campaign estimates there are roughly 200 war resisters living in Canada.
The deportation of war resisters by the Canadian government was emboldened by the Ministry of Citizenship and Immigration. Commenting after Rivera received a negative IRB decision on January 7, 2009, he referred to Iraq war resisters as, “bogus refugee claimants” in a later interview on Parliament Hill. He went on to state, “I don’t appreciate people adding to the backlog and clogging up the system whose claims are being rejected consistently 100 per cent of the time.”
Lee Zaslofsky, an organizer with the WRCS, criticized Minister Kenney’s comments as political interference on the supposedly independent IRB tribunal. “Everyone, including war resisters, has the right to expect their applications will be dealt with in a fair and impartial manner,” he wrote in a statement.
Speaking to the press on Thursday of Rivera’s case, a spokesperson from Kenney’s office stated, ‘‘Canada’s immigration system is considered among the most fair and generous in the world. It is a matter of public record that Ms. Rivera has had multiple opportunities to make her case to stay in Canada.’’
Complicating matters on a political level is the fact that the Harper government has so far ignored the result of two House of Commons motions (passed June 3, 2008 and March 30, 2009) which directed the government to stop deporting war resisters.
Activists and politicians first brought their fight to Canadian Parliament on June 3, 2008, when the majority (a united opposition) of Parliament voted to pass a motion — presented by NDP MP Olivia Chow — in support of war resisters by a vote of 137 to 110.
Canadian war resisters also lost a pivotal battle in parliament on September 29, 2010, when Bill C-440 was defeated on its second reading by a vote of 143 to 136. “This is a setback for Iraq war resisters seeking permanent resident status in Canada, but our campaign to make the government respect the will of the majority of Canadians on this issue is far from over,” said Michelle Robidoux, a spokesperson for the WRSC. “These courageous men and women have the support of two-thirds of Canadians across the country, and they are still threatened with punishment if returned to the United States.”
Amnesty International has stated it believes that the right to refuse military service for reasons of conscience is inherent in the notion of freedom of thought, conscience and religion as recognized in Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).
An emergency community meeting in Toronto has been called for Wednesday September 5, 2012, 7 pm at Parkdale United Church, 171 Dunn Avenue, Toronto.
For ongoing coverage of U.S. war resister’s fight to remain in Canada, please see the following links: