That’s right. AWOL war resister Kyle Snyder is home safe in Canada after surviving several attempts to arrest him while he traveled in the United States. As Kyle explains it:
“I didn’t leave Canada in order to go to jail – just the opposite.
I returned to the U.S. because the Army said they would discharge me
with no jail time. But the Army lied to me – again.”
Kyle Snyder came to Canada in April 2005 while on leave from the Iraq War. For a year and a half, he was the most outspoken U.S. war resister in British Columbia. He lived in Vancouver, BC and also in a small town near Edmonton, Alberta, where he met his fiancé.
Kyle says it was always his intention to return to Canada. “I love Canada and I love the Canadian people,” he says. “In fact, my fiancé is Canadian and we are eager to begin a life together. Despite our best hopes, it became apparent that we could not do that in the United States without being pursued or imprisoned.”
Snyder also points to the Canadian government’s ambivalence toward U.S. war resisters as influencing his decision to turn himself into Army authorities at Fort Knox, Kentucky. “It’s pretty tough when you face persecution in your home country, but your new country will not say how long you will be able to stay,” laments Snyder. [For more information see below, “The Uphill Struggle of U.S. War Resisters in Canada.”]
“The really big problem is the illegal U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq,” says Snyder. “I want to see my fellow GI’s home from Iraq as soon as possible,” he says.
“My unit, the 94th Engineers, should be rebuilding in New Orleans,
not returning a third time to Iraq.”
Snyder to Army: Drop all the Charges - Let Ehren Watada Resign
Kyle Snyder is calling on all peace-loving people in the U.S. and Canada to send letters in support of Lt. Ehren Watada, the first U.S. military officer to refuse to deploy to the Iraq War. Lt. Watada is being court-martialed at Fort Lewis, Washington, beginning on February 5.
“Ehren Watada is my hero,” says Snyder. “He is a true American hero who is standing up for what is right. Our national leaders have failed us, so we must support GI’s who are obeying international law.”
Support Lt. Ehren Watada
Don't delay – Ehren’s court martial trial begins on February 5, 2007.
Click here! http://ga0.org/campaign/write_bush/navb88t67
Kyle Snyder is extremely thankful for all the wonderful support he received from so many people as he traveled from late October through early January to Louisville, Chicago, Fort Benning, Georgia, New Orleans, San Diego, San Jose, San Francisco, Seattle and Bellingham.
“There are lots of great people in the U.S. and I will never forget them, especially the Vietnam veterans and the Iraq veterans who showed me so much love and support,” he says.
“People in the U.S. were very generous,” says Kyle. “It was their donations of money at our various public meetings that allowed me to keep moving in the U.S., to avoid arrest, and, finally, to return to Canada,” says Snyder. “I will never forget that.”
“Even though I am back in Canada, I still need your support.
I am trying to make a new start here, but I have almost no funds at all.
So I am asking all my wonderful supporters in the U.S. to consider making
one more donation to help me get on my feet.”
Aside from pulling together funds for first and last month’s rent, Kyle needs to raise $2,000 for upcoming legal fees and marriage-related fees.
Interested donors can make out checks to Kyle Snyder and mail them to him at:
Kyle Snyder, 310-A Victoria St., Nelson, BC, V1L 4K4, CANADA.
Tax-deductible donations for Kyle Snyder can also be made online through Courage To Resist, http://www.couragetoresist.org/, an excellent resource for action alerts in support of GI resisters.
“Thank you all so much,” says Kyle. “It means a lot to me to know that I am not alone.”
Canada’s Minister of Citizenship and Immigration
You may send comments to the Honourable Diane Finley at Minister@cic.gc.ca.
Or write to:
write or fax the Prime Minister’s office at:
The Uphill Struggle of U.S. War Resisters in Canada
Canadian immigration lawyers estimate there are about 200 AWOL U.S. war resisters currently living in Canada. About thirty of them have applied for political refugee status, a long, uphill legal battle with heavy political overtones. Canada has rarely, if ever, granted refugee status to those fleeing persecution in the U.S.
But it is the very act of applying for refugee status that allows AWOL GI’s to remain legally in Canada. Once they apply for refugee status, they are protected by Canadian refugee law until their case is finally decided. Because of a significant backlog of refugee cases, the first Iraq War resisters to arrive in Canada waited a year or more for their refugee hearing. After initially being denied refugee status, several war resisters have appealed in Canada’s federal courts, a process that promises to go on for several years, and will ultimately be decided by the Supreme Court of Canada. Many resisters are still waiting for their initial refugee hearing.
In the meantime, these U.S. war resisters are residing legally in Canada. After a few months they receive work permits so they can work legally too. They and their families have access to Canada’s social assistance and universal healthcare systems.
Even if the war resisters are ultimately denied refugee status, Canada remains a de facto sanctuary for U.S. war resisters, at least a temporary safe haven. Resisters may find other ways to remain in Canada, on “humanitarian and compassionate grounds.” Some, like Kyle Snyder, may eventually immigrate through legitimate marriages.
But the fact remains that most U.S. war resisters in Canada are living in a legal and political limbo. “Iraq War veterans who have followed international law and refused to participate in war crimes are being denied refugee status in Canada, and that’s not right,” says Gerry Condon, director of Project Safe Haven, a war resister advocacy group.
“Given the fact that most Canadians oppose the U.S. war in Iraq,
why isn’t the Canadian government doing more to help?”
Canadians Call on Government to Create Sanctuary Policy
In fact, many Canadians are calling on their government to provide some form of sanctuary for war resisters, to allow them to immigrate as over 50,000 Americans did during the Vietnam War. The War Resisters Support Campaign has been organizing across Canada and has made significant progress (for more information, go to http://www.resisters.ca/).
Tens of thousands of petition signatures have been presented in Parliament. Two political parties, the New Democrats and the Greens, are officially calling for sanctuary for Iraq War resisters. And some members of the opposition Liberal Party, including its new leader, Stéphane Dion, have expressed support for U.S. war resisters.
Conservative Government Is No Friend of War Resisters
There is little sympathy for U.S. war resisters within the ruling minority Conservative government. Current Prime Minister Stephen Harper once called on Canada to join George Bush’s “coalition of the willing” in Iraq. Against the will of most Canadians, Harper has extended Canadian military involvement in the Afghanistan. Under the guise of traditional Canadian “peace-keeping,” Canadian troops are aggressively hunting down Taliban rebels and attacking their rural Afghan villages.
New federal elections will probably be called in Canada by fall, or even as early as spring. Many Canadians hope their parliamentary democracy will produce a new government that is more favorable to war resisters and less interested in imitating the Bush administration.
“It’s time for both the U.S. and Canada to show more respect for international law,” says Gerry Condon, director of Project Safe Haven, who accompanied Kyle Snyder on his U.S. odyssey.
“Canada should be the ‘refuge from militarism’ that Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau declared it to be during the Vietnam War.”
As many as 100,000 U.S. residents took up residence in Canada during the Vietnam War. Thirty thousand are now Canadian citizens.
Gerry Condon went AWOL from the U.S. Army in 1969 after refusing to deploy to the Vietnam War. For six years he lived in Sweden and Canada organizing against the war and for amnesty for war resisters. He currently serves as director of Project Safe Haven, a network of Vietnam War resisters supporting the war resisters of today. He maintains a website, http://www.soldiersayno.blogspot.com/ and can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.