Sunday, October 07, 2007

Random Thoughts on Supporting GI Resisters

by Gerry Condon, Soldier Say No / Project Safe Haven

Clinton, Obama and Edwards Would Leave Troops in Iraq (video)

GI and Veteran Resisters Speak Out (video)

I wrote this memo last week and sent it out to several friends and contacts on my email list. I didn’t expect it to receive wide circulation but it has. So I have belatedly taken the time to correct some typos, to add information I received from the Military Law Task force of the National Lawyers Guild, and to acknowledge the excellent hard work of a number of organizations that are reaching out to GI’s and/or supporting war resisters (see final section). Thanks to all who have responded with positive feedback or further distributed my memo. Obviously, this is a conversation that interests many people. That in itself is a good sign.

-- Gerry Condon, October 1, 2007

Sometimes I am impatient,
with myself and the antiwar movement of which I am a part. When will we get real about supporting GI resisters? I’m not just talking about the odd Conscientious Objector or AWOL soldier. I’m talking about building a support movement for GI resistance. I’m talking about reaching out to the troops and telling them they should not fight in an illegal, immoral war. I’m talking about challenging deeply embedded societal concepts concerning patriotism, fulfilling ones’ military “duty,” and being bound by the military “contract.”

I’ve been to meetings where counter-recruitment activists and war resister advocates have announced that their son or daughter will be deployed the following week to Iraq. And I ask myself: why are they not standing in their way, why are they allowing their children to be sent off to a war that they know is wrong? And I have talked to parents who se children have been killed in Iraq who say they didn’t agree with their children’s decision to enlist in the military but that they had tried to respect their right to make that decision, to respect that they were now adults (barely). Now they deeply regret that decision.

Sometimes I think we are running out of time to really build the kind of resistance movement, civilian and GI, that will be needed to end the Iraq War. But then I read that Hillary Clinton, the probable next president, will not promise to have the troops out of Iraq by the end of her first term. Neither will Barak Obama. Neither will John Edwards. (See the video clip above). Why? Because the president of the United States must be the executive director of U.S. imperialism. The Democrats want that Iraqi oil as much as the Republicans. Both parties are controlled by the uber-rich ruling class. Both parties believe that it is the U.S. destiny to dominate the world’s resources, markets and people. They debate strategy and tactics only.

Well, the Congress finally united this week to do something concerning the Iraq War. Both houses of Congress overwhelmingly condemned the anti-war ad of that dared to challenge the credibility of General Petraeus, the latest shill for Bush’s failed war. The Senate vote was 72-25 and the House vote was 341-79. These are the kind of numbers that should be ending to the war and impeaching President Bush and his entire war cabinet. But that ain’t going to happen.

It would appear, then, that the antiwar movement has been focusing its precious energies in the wrong direction. Four years of focusing on the U.S. Congress has achieved no meaningful results. There is no democracy in Washington, DC. Arguably, those who have been doing counter-recruitment work have had more impact, although that is hard to measure. The Iraq War has been the greatest counter-recruiter of all. African Americans, in particular, are enlisting in historically low numbers.

David Zeiger did the world a great service when he made the film, Sir, No Sir! This film uncovered a profound historical truth that is hard for many people to comprehend: Widespread resistance within the military was the final nail in the coffin of the Vietnam War. Rap groups. Coffee houses. Black Power meetings. GI newspapers. “Search and avoid” missions. Massive desertions. Sabotage. Refusal to fight. Refusal to fly. Refusal to train. “Fragging” of gung ho officers and NCOs. Withholding of intelligence data. Deserter and draft resister exile bases in Europe and Canada. Campaigns to unionize and democratize the military.

These acts of GI rebellion and organizing were organic, both spontaneous and planned. The antiwar movement cannot will them into being. They also took place within the context of a political awakening in the U.S., the rise of anti-imperialist, socialist and Black Consciousness movements, and a “cultural revolution” of youth. In other words, they took place within a revolutionary climate. Perhaps that is what we are lacking now, more than anything.

GI resistance organizing must come from the GI’s themselves. However, it is somewhat unique in requiring lots of “outside” help from civilians. Some of this work must necessarily be clandestine, but much of it can be done in the open.

One can assume that any effective efforts at reaching out to GI’s or supporting their organizing will bring serious attention from various police and intelligence agencies. GI organizers will most likely be infiltrated by government agents, as will their civilian supporters. The government spies will be there to provide intelligence, to provoke disputes, to incite violence, to isolate and entrap leaders, and, in general, to attempt to undermine the resistance.

To my knowledge, not a single civilian was prosecuted during the Vietnam War for “aiding and abetting” AWOL GI’s or for stirring up resistance within the military. Why this is the case, I do not know. Perhaps government and military leaders did not want to bring attention to the GI resistance. There are certainly laws on the books they could use. In the age of Homeland Security, anything is possible. But until the government begins to aggressively pursue those who are supporting GI resisters, we should consider this activity to be relatively low risk.

There is a taboo in the antiwar movement against actually calling on the troops to resist. Only Iraq Veterans Against the War have begun to cross that line (see video above). What is behind this taboo? I believe there are a number of factors. One is fear of the perceived legal jeopardy. As I addressed above, this is somewhat of a myth. Nobody has been prosecuted for encouraging GI’s to resist, not during the Vietnam War and not since.

[Since I first wrote these Random Thoughts, friends at the Military Law Task Force of the National Lawyers Guild have informed me of several Vietnam era prosecutions of civilians who were working with antiwar GI’s, not for aiding and abetting, but for various other trumped up state and local charges.]

Another part of the taboo against calling on the troops to resist is that many antiwar organizations, especially the larger and more established, are organized as nonprofit organizations (501c3) for purposes of receiving tax-deductible organizations. They fear they might lose their nonprofit status if they advocate actions the government would consider illegal. To my knowledge, this has not happened. But nonprofits’ boards of directors tend to be pretty conservative about such matters. Many of them also wrongfully believe that their nonprofit status will be jeopardized if they engage in any advocacy or support legislative proposals.

Then there are the moral and ethical concerns. Some activists say that civilians don’t have the right to tell GI’s what they should be doing. Others say we should not put the moral burden for ending the war upon the soldiers. These concerns are worth exploring.
To me, the most compelling concern is this: If we encourage GI’s to resist, are we going to be there for them when they do? If they are court-martialed, will we bring legal and political support? If they go to jail, will we remember them? If they go AWOL, will we help them? Can we provide them with housing and money? Can we help them get to a safe haven outside the U.S.? Can we provide them with sanctuary within the U.S.? These are the very capacities that some of us are working to develop.

Underlying many of these concerns, I believe, is a very profound question: If we ask GI’s to take the risks involved with resisting within the military, or going AWOL, are we willing to share those risks? Not everybody is in a position to do so. And relatively few people are committed enough to risk the potential disruption of their lives, up to and including political persecution and possible imprisonment. In other words, if we aren’t ready to put our lives on the line, how can we ask these young soldiers to do so?

Well, some of us are willing to put our lives on the line. But this is more easily said than done. Most activists have families, jobs, careers and recreational activities that are important to them. They may be struggling financially or with health concerns. It is hard enough to attend meetings or to go to demonstrations. Even relatively tame civil disobedience actions will give many people pause. This is understandable, but should it mean that we do not call on GI’s to resist?

I do believe it is important for those of us who encourage GI resistance, directly or indirectly, to be prepared to come to the aid of those who heed our call. On the other hand, I do not believe that GI’s face any greater risk from resisting the war than they do from being part of the war. GI resisters do not generally risk their lives, their limbs, brain damage, PTSD, their ability to love their families, etc. But all of these horrible things are epidemic among those who go to war.

What does a GI actually risk by resisting? A lot. Persecution by military superiors. Disapproval and rejection by fellow GI’s. Disapproval and rejection by some family members. Self-doubt and loss of self-esteem. Jail time. The stigma of a less-than-honorable discharge. The inability to support their family. Jeopardy to educational and career goals.

And AWOL soldiers risk the trauma of prolonged separation from their families (but the war does that too). Those who leave the country may not be able to return without facing prosecution. And they face an uncertain future in their new country. There is plenty of stress and trauma, for sure. But how does that compare to the risks and trauma and moral consequences of going to war? GI’s who refuse, in one way or another, to go to war, are actually decreasing the risks to themselves – physically, psychologically and morally.

I believe it is time for the antiwar movement to relocate to the gates of every military base in this country, and abroad. Democracy has failed in Washington. Seventy percent of the U.S. people want the troops out of Iraq as soon as possible. But the Congress says no way. And the leading presidential candidates of both parties say no way. In this election cycle, the antiwar movement should not spend one ounce of its energy backing any candidate who is not credibly committed to ending the war and giving Iraq back to the Iraqis.

Instead of wasting our energy on the politicians, we in the antiwar movement should take democracy into our own hands. The slogan “Troops Out Now” should be directed at the troops themselves. We should encourage and assist our citizen soldiers to vote with their feet. As Bertold Brecht famously suggested, the war machine cannot function if the troops won’t fight. Even the drones and the robots require humans to direct and repair them.

This is somewhat of a revolutionary proposal. But it now appears that nothing short of a revolutionary movement will bring an end to the Iraq War. Nothing less than a revolutionary movement will prevent the next war. And nothing less than a revolutionary movement will finally put an end to the global warring that is a central component of U.S. imperialism.

I’m not saying we need to build a revolutionary party or prepare ourselves for armed revolution. But we need to think like revolutionaries and act like revolutionaries. We need to shed the illusion that we can end the cycle of U.S. war mongering though polite discourse with our congresswoman. We have to internalize the fact that we are, in fact, at war with our own government and system. We have to be willing to take risks. And we have to be willing to ask others to take risks, especially when it is in their own interests.

When we ask GI’s to take the risk of resisting, we will not be putting an unethical burden upon them. We will probably be saving their lives. And, yes, we must be there for them too. We must share the risks. Maybe we’ll be saving our lives too.

This is the context I see for supporting “war resisters.” Our goal should be to empower the soldiers to play their historical role in the worldwide movement to end to U.S. militarism. Not everyone will agree with me. But activists from many different perspectives and organizations can still provide war resisters with valuable support, be it counseling on their legal options, money, housing, transportation, political support, or helping them to make their voices heard.

It is one thing to oppose a war, it is another to actually resist it. Even many peace activists oppose actions that might violate the law. They consider it reckless to call for GI resistance, or even to tell GI’s they can go to Canada. What’s up with that? It’s time to change the paradigm.

Another thing that is holding us back is that hardly anybody really knows how to do this work. Few people have any relevant experience. And the mostly middle class and over-40 peace movement does not know how to talk to the poor and working class youth of today’s “volunteer” military. But it’s high time we started learning. By trial and error. For those of us in the Northwest, what better laboratory than Fort Lewis, one of the largest Army bases providing troops to the Iraq War. The local papers announce the deaths of Washington state GI’s almost daily. Where are we?

To be fair, there are groups in the antiwar movement who have been reaching out to GI’s and/or providing various kinds of support to war resisters. For example, Courage To Resist has publicized the cases of many war resisters and raised money for them online. Members of Iraq Veterans Against the War have been traveling to various military bases and talking one-on-one with GI’s. Citizen Soldier helped to establish the Different Drummer Internet Café, the first GI coffeehouse of this era, at Fort Drum, near Syracuse, New York. Not coincidentally, the first active duty chapter of Iraq Veterans Against the War has been established at Fort Drum. The GI Rights Hotline has been providing much needed counseling to thousands of GI’s who are considering their options. The GI Special has been providing Iraq War news and views from the perspective of the GI’s.

In Canada, the War Resisters Support Campaign is providing housing and basic needs to U.S. war resisters while leading a campaign to press the Canadian government to allow them to stay. These groups deserve credit for their excellent work. I encourage people to check them out and to consider joining or supporting their work.

Courage To Resist,
Iraq Veterans Against the War,
Veterans For Peace,
Vietnam Veterans Against the War,
Military Families Speak Out,
Guerrero Azteca,
Citizen Soldier,
Different Drummer Internet Café,
Ehren Watada support campaign,
Catholic Worker/Jonah House,
GI Rights Hotline,
Military Law Task Force (NLG),
GI Special,
Soldier Say No / Project Safe Haven,

In Canada: War Resisters Support Campaign,

Many groups have also rallied around GI resisters facing court martials, such as Camilo Mejia (now co-chair of Iraq Veterans Against the War), Pablo Paredes (now working with the GI Rights Hotline), Kevin Benderman, who with his wife Monica, has just published a book about their experiences, Letters from the Fort Lewis Stockade.), and Ehren Watada, whose court martial at Fort Lewis, Washington has been re-scheduled for October 9. The excellent work of these organizations is a strong base upon which to build a movement supporting mass GI resistance to the U.S. wars against the people of Iraq, Afghanistan and Iran.
Gerry Condon

Soldier Say No / Project Safe Haven,
(206) 499-1220

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Canadian Police Arrest Kyle Snyder at Request of U.S. Army

Maleah Friesen, Carleen Pickard, Kyle Snyder and Gerry Condon at
Protest Against School of Americas, Fort Benning, Georgia, November 2006

by Gerry Condon, Project Safe Haven

On Friday, February 23, police in Nelson, British Columbia entered the home of U.S. war resister Kyle Snyder without a search warrant or permission to enter. They had no warrant for Snyder’s arrest, but arrested him anyway. Treating him like a violent criminal, they did not even allow him dress into his clothes. They took him off to jail barefoot and wearing only boxer shorts and a bathrobe.

Kyle’s roommates, U.S. war resisters Ryan and Jenna Johnson, frantically started calling everyone they could think of, including the offices of MPs Alex Atamanenko and Bill Siksay, who intervened on his behalf. After Kyle was confined for six hours, Citizenship and Immigration Canada ordered Nelson police to release him.

Later that Friday evening, Joci Peri, an official at Citizenship and Immigration Canada in Vancouver, told Kyle that the U.S. Army had requested his arrest and deportation. What actually happened? Many serious questions remain unanswered.

Who ordered whom to arrest Kyle Snyder?
The current posture of the Nelson City Police seems aimed at keeping the people of Nelson from learning the truth about the arrest of Kyle Snyder. The initial article on the arrest in the Nelson Daily News (2/23/07) quotes NCP Chief Dan Maluta as saying the following:
“We got an order for detention which was our authority to hold that subject until he was dealt with by CBSA [Canada Border Services Agency]” Chief Maluta added that the order was issued by CBSA the same day police acted.

Technically speaking, the Chief’s carefully chosen words may be true. But is a detention order the same as an arrest warrant? And did the Canadian Border Services Agency request Kyle Snyder’s apprehension? Apparently not. A spokesperson for CBSA told several reporters that CBSA was called first by Nelson police, not the other way around. Then did the Nelson police call CBSA before or after apprehending Kyle Snyder?

It is now clear that the actions of the Nelson police were not prompted by either CBSA or Citizenship and Immigration Canada, who told them there was no legal basis for holding Kyle Snyder and ordered him released.

On Friday, March 2, the Nelson Daily News reported that:

Although Nelson City Police initially said officers acted on a detention order issued by Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA), Chief Maluta acknowledged Thursday that was not their original “source.” “We received information that this fellow was living in Nelson and may be illegally in Canada. We notified CBSA who said yes, we believe he is illegally in Canada and arrestable under the Immigration Act. So he was arrested and became the subject of the detention order which I mentioned previously,” said Maluta. When asked for his source, Maluta was mum. “I’m not at liberty to disclose how we found he was in Nelson because we don’t do that. We don’t disclose our sources,” he said.

Maluta would also not comment when the Nelson Daily News asked police if the source was from a Canadian or U.S. government body or agency or if it was a Canadian or American source. “I will neither confirm nor deny,” he said, before explaining why he could not reveal the source. “We want them to come forward so I’m not going to do anything to jeopardize [that] in the interest of law enforcement and in the interest of public safety.”

Maluta also said that there is no sovereignty issue involved with having accepted information from the police source.

“It does not affect Canadian sovereignty or the integrity of this police department to accept information on subjects who might be under investigation in Canada from outside sources whether that be the FBI, Interpol, U.S. Intelligence, Mexican police, whoever,” he said.

Chief Maluta is careful not to deny that it was a call from the U.S. Army that prompted Nelson police to arrest Kyle Snyder. But he won’t admit it either. This will not do. If it is standard operating procedure, as Maluta indicates, for the Nelson police to receive information from police sources outside of Canada, then why can’t he just say “yes, we received a call from the U.S. Army.” Why would the U.S. Army need to be a protected source?

The Nelson City Police Must Be Held Accountable
It is important to get to the bottom of this situation. The Nelson City Police must be accountable to Nelson taxpayers. And appropriate steps must be taken to ensure that such abuses do not occur again.

In this vein, there are several pieces of information that are of critical importance:

1) Did the Nelson police in fact arrest Kyle Snyder at the behest of the U.S. Army, as Kyle was told by Citizenship and Immigration Canada?
2) If so, what was the basis for the arrest?
3) Is it standard operating procedure for Canadian police to do the U.S. military’s bidding?
4) Is it legal for them to do so?

Several knowledgeable Canadian authorities have said it would be inappropriate if not illegal for the U.S. Army to directly contact a local Canadian police force. And it would be inappropriate if not illegal for a local Canadian police force to act at the request of the U.S. Army.

Growing Presence of U.S. Police Agents in Canada
If indeed, such contacts between the U.S. military and local police forces are routine, then the Canadian people have a right to know that. As MP Alex Atamanenko said at a community meeting last Wednesday in Nelson (quoted in the Nelson Daily News, 3/2/07):

“This could just be the tip of the iceberg. If in fact it’s true, why is a foreign police force or a foreign army allowed to contact our people and get them to arrest people in our country? That’s wrong. It’s an infringement on our sovereignty. It’s a whole issue that we have to look at step by step and try to get some answers from this government and change the policy.”

There is, in fact, a growing presence of U.S. police agents within Canada and a disturbing trend toward further “integration” of U.S. and Canadian police functions. See Mike Howell’s recent article in the Vancouver Courier.

Not included in the article is Mike Howell’s interview with Scott Collins of U.S. Diplomatic Security, in which Collins says that one of the functions of his agency is to work with Canadian authorities to apprehend U.S. military deserters and return them to the U.S!

Scott Collins even told the Vancouver Courier that such apprehensions take place “quite frequently.” What would have happened if Kyle had been alone when he was arrested? What would have happened if Ryan and Jenna Johnson had not known to call supportive MPs?

Illegal Arresting Procedures
There are several other aspects of Kyle Snyder’s arrest that deserve scrutiny. Nelson police had neither an arrest warrant nor a warrant to search Snyder’s home. They were not given permission to enter his home, but entered it anyway, illegally. And, as has been much discussed, they arrested Kyle, handcuffing his arms behind his back while he was in his boxer shorts, bathrobe and bare feet, and refusing his request to dress. Kyle was allowed to put on some clothes about a half hour later, after being booked and being in his cell for some time. But he remained in bare feet on the cold cement floor of his cell for six hours.

In the initial Nelson Daily News article (2/28/07), Chief Maluta had the following to say about the arresting procedure:

“It’s against our policy to allow an arrested individual to go back into their residence and put on clothes and things of that nature because it’s patently unsafe to do that. You never bring a suspect or an arrested person back into their residence to put on clothing or retrieve anything. Never.”

But Kyle was not arrested outside his home. He was arrested illegally inside his home. He was still inside his home when he asked to put on some clothes. Is this indeed the standard operating procedure for Canadian police when arresting a nonviolent suspect?

Being AWOL Is Not an Extraditable Offense
Nelson police told Kyle he was being arrested under the Immigration Act. They also told him there was a warrant out for his arrest in the United States. Did they know that the warrant is for being AWOL from the U.S. Army? Did they know that being on unauthorized absence from another country’s military is NOT a crime in Canada? Did they know that it is also not an extraditable offense? Do they know that now? If not, somebody should show them the following:

Extradition Act

Reasons for Refusal

When order not to be made

46. (1) The Minister shall refuse to make a surrender order if the Minister is satisfied that


(b) the conduct in respect of which extradition is sought is a military offence that is not also an offence under criminal law; or

(c) the conduct in respect of which extradition is sought is a political offence or an offence of a political character.

In fact, every police agency in Canada needs to be educated about this section of Canada’s Extradiction Act. It is my understanding that MPs Alex Atamanenko (B.C. Southern Interior) and Bill Siksay (Burnaby, BC) are discussing how to pursue this goal at the federal level.

Iraq War Resisters Deserve a Safe Haven in Canada
Finally, we need to put this whole disturbing incident into its proper context. The U.S. Army, the same army that called the Nelson police, is currently pursuing an illegal war of aggression against the sovereign nation of Iraq. Well over a half million Iraqi men, women and children have been needlessly murdered, according to credible estimates.

The international community has repeatedly condemned the U.S. war and occupation of Iraq. And the American people have rejected it. According to recent polls, 6 of 10 Americans believe the war to be a mistake, and 6 of 10 Americans want to bring U.S. troops home. Only 13% of Americans support the current escalation of the war.

Those soldiers who refuse to participate in this bloodbath are, in fact, obeying international law. They deserve a safe haven in Canada. It is easy to understand why the U.S. Army does not want this to be so. But why would Canadian police act in support of this illegal U.S. war? It is time for the Canadian government to do the right thing and grant sanctuary to U.S. war resisters. Only a clearly articulated sanctuary policy will ensure that what happened to Kyle Snyder will never again happen to anyone else.

Gerry Condon went AWOL from the U.S. Army in 1969 after refusing to deploy to Vietnam. He lived for 3 years in Sweden and 3 years in Canada before returning to the U.S. to fight for amnesty for all war resisters. He now serves as Director of Project Safe Haven and has been working with U.S. war resisters in Canada for the last 3 years. He can be reached at

Friday, February 02, 2007

Kyle Snyder Returns to Canada

Kyle Snyder has returned to Canada. Together with his Canadian fiancé, Maleah Friesen, he has moved to the quaint little town of Nelson, nestled in the Kootenay Mountains of southeastern British Columbia. There they have joined another war resister couple, Ryan and Jenna Johnson from California. Now the four of them are urgently seeking funds so they can rent a 2-bedroom apartment together. (see below, “Kyle Thanks You for Your Continuing Support”)

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.”]

Bring the Troops Home
“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
Put pressure on those who can influence the outcome of Lt. Watada's court martial by demanding the military drop all charges and accept Lt. Watada's resignation.

Don't delay – Ehren’s court martial trial begins on February 5, 2007.
Write President Bush and U.S. Army.
Click here!

Kyle Thanks You for Your Continuing Support
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,, 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.”

Ask the Canadian Government to Welcome War Resisters
Kyle Snyder is also calling on people in both the U.S. and Canada to press the Canadian government to create a sanctuary policy for U.S. war resisters, one that will ease their immigration to Canada. “It’s the right and necessary thing to do,” he said.

Canada’s Minister of Citizenship and Immigration
You may send comments to the Honourable Diane Finley at

Or write to:
The Honourable Diane Finley, P.C., M.P.Citizenship and Immigration CanadaOttawa, Ontario K1A 1L1 CANADA
Canada’s Prime Minister
You can send your comments to Prime Minister Stephen Harper by e-mail to or
write or fax the Prime Minister’s office at:
Office of the Prime Minister
80 Wellington Street
Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0A2 CANADA
Fax: 613-941-6900

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

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
But New Election Looms
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, and can be reached by email at