Monday, January 28, 2008

Sudbury Event Supporting War Resisters

On Saturday, the Sudbury chapter of the War Resisters Support Campaign had an event at the downtown library. The WRSC is devoted to supporting U.S. soldiers who flee to Canada in order to avoid participation in the unjust, immoral, and illegal occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan, and to creating a legal context to allow them to stay in the country. The event involved representatives from other local groups and organizations that support the campaign each speaking for a few minutes about why we think the campaign is important -- I spoke for Sudbury Against War and Occupation -- and a short but powerful video. We all signed letters to Dion and Harper urging them to support effort to keep the U.S. war resisters in the country, and delivered them en masse to the post office.

Here is the article from The Sudbury Star:

Rally supports U.S. couple; Pair fled to Canada after man deserted rather than return to Iraq
By Rachel Punch, reposted from The Sudbury Star

About 20 people gathered at a rally in Sudbury on Saturday in an effort to help U.S. Iraq war resisters, like deserter Michael Espinal and his partner, Jennifer Harrison, stay in Canada. Espinal and Harrison, who is expecting a child in April, have been living in Sudbury since the fall, when the couple fled Florida so Espinal would not have to serve a second tour of duty in Iraq.

"They had the boldness and the braveness to say 'no' and we need to respect them for that," said Rev. David Nicol, of Waters Mennonite Church, during the rally at the main branch of Greater Sudbury Public Library on Saturday afternoon.

Espinal participated in the siege of Fallujah with the U.S. military in Iraq. He says he now suffers post-traumatic stress disorder as a result. In his view, he committed numerous human rights abuses and criminal acts there. After his first tour of duty, he resolved not to return to Iraq.

Espinal and Harrison could not attend Saturday's rally because they were ill, but support for the Miami couple was evident in the presentations made by those supporting war resisters.

The rally was the first Pan-Canadian Day of Action called "Let Them Stay Day." Events were held in other cities across the country.

"It's a day of action to try to help these characters stay in the country," said Daryl Shandro, a member of Sudbury's War Resisters Support Campaign.

Shandro said the group also wanted to update people on the campaign and show the "breadth of support" for it in the community.

Last December, the House of Commons Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration passed a resolution recommending that the government immediately implement a program to allow war resisters and their families to stay in Canada. It also called for an immediate halt to deportation proceedings in these cases.

The rally participants were asked to sign letters to Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Liberal Leader Stephane Dion, encouraging them to act on the resolution.

Some of the rally participants marched the letters to the post office.

"These letters are going to encourage Stephen Harper and Stephane Dion to consider this and to vote in favour of this motion when it comes to Parliament," Shandro said.

Speakers representing organizations such as churches, student unions and an anti-war group spoke at the rally about why it's important to support the war resisters campaign.

Scott Neigh, of Sudbury Against War and Occupation, said it's important to support these people who chose not to be forced to risk their lives and harm others.

"We think it's also an important part of supporting the people of Iraq and Afghanistan who are living under occupation," he said.

He said supporting war resisters makes it harder for U.S. leaders to continue the war.

Shandro said there are hundreds of U.S. Iraq war resisters living in Canada and she expects that number to continue growing.

"It doesn't look like it is going to end soon," she said. "(The U.S. government) is resorting to more desperate measures to getting people to stay in the army."

As for Espinal and Harrison, she said they are both adjusting to life in Sudbury and are looking for work at the moment. They are also adjusting to the snow and cold weather.

"Jennifer was really kind of curious about snow ... I think now she knows better," Shandro joked.

The couple have submitted a claim for refugee status and expect to find out what their hearing date is within the next month, Shandro said.

Espinal is claiming refugee status on the grounds that "he would be punished, court marshalled and imprisoned in the United States for refusing to participate in what he considers to be an illegal war," Shandro said. "There are precedents all over the world for that being a valid reason for a claim."

For more information about the war resisters campaign, visit


Anonymous said...

Thank you for taking a courageous stand. Canada has traditionally been a refuge for those in the U.S. who are persecuted and oppressed and this "war" of choice should be no exception.

Tiffany Gonzalez said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Tiffany Gonzalez said...

I knew my statement would be removed, this just shows the immoral character of this editorial. Regarding the lies of Nestor Michael Espinal and the fraud and injustice he has ensued.
No one even contacted me for the truth