An American soldier who moved to Canada to avoid the Iraq war has been arrested at the border after following a deportation order.
According to reports, Kimberly Rivera moved to Toronto in 2007 to avoid further military service after she grew disillusioned with the Iraq war. She says when she was serving in Iraq she began to oppose the war and even stopped carrying her rifle.
Rivera says, "We were not bringing freedom to Iraq; we were bringing needless pain and suffering and death. How could I look my children in the eye and tell them to be good people, when I was contributing to causing harm and death to innocent people on the other side of the world?"
The War Resisters Support Campaign had warned that Rivera would likely face a court martial and jail time when she returned to the U.S., and as expected she was arrested and transferred to U.S. military custody. The group issued a statement saying, "Kimberly now awaits punishment for refusing to return to Iraq, a conflict which Kimberly and Canada determined was wrong."
When the 30-year-old mother of four crossed the border, her husband and children crossed the border separately. Spokesman Ken Marciniec says, "She didn't want her children to see her arrested by the military."
Marciniec says two other Iraq war resisters who were deported in the past, Robin Long and Clifford Cornell, faced year-long jail sentences for desertion. He says, "No one should go to jail in any country, anywhere in the world, for conscientious objection to war." "It's important for our government's treatment of Iraq war resisters to catch up with the opinion of the majority of Canadians on this issue."
When the deportation was confirmed in Canada's parliament, there was a huge cheer from Conservative MPs.
Rivera says her biggest fear about being deported was being separated from her young children, two of whom were born in Canada, and having to sit in a prison for taking a political stand against the Iraq conflict. She arrived in Canada under refugee status and had applied for permanent residency on humanitarian and compassionate grounds, but a decision on her application is still pending.
More than 20,000 people signed an online petition against the deportation order and rallies were held in a number of Canadian cities on Wednesday, asking the government to let her stay in the country.
Nobel Peace Prize winner Archbishop Desmond Tutu and the American veterans organization Veterans for Peace also spoke out against the deportation. And the United Steelworkers called the deportation, an "international tragedy." National director Ken Neumann says, "This gives Canada a black eye on the international stage. Our country’s once-proud tradition as a safe haven for conscientious objectors has been destroyed with Kim’s deportation."
During the Vietnam War, tens of thousands of American "conscientious objectors" were allowed to stay in Canada, and many were granted permanent residence status.