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“It’s quite clear that the current Canadian government does not want to annoy the U.S. government on this issue and will not give any ground,” said Michael Byers, a professor of politics and international law at the University of British Columbia.
During the Vietnam War, the Liberal prime minister, Pierre Elliott Trudeau, welcomed American deserters and draft dodgers, declaring that Canada “should be a refuge from militarism.” Americans who arrived were generally able to obtain legal immigrant status simply by applying at the border, or even after they entered Canada.
But while the current Conservative government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper has not backed the Iraq war, it has shown little sympathy for American deserters. During a recent parliamentary debate, Laurie Hawn, a Conservative from Alberta, asked, “Why do they not fight it within their own legal system instead of being faux refugees in Canada?”
No American deserter of the Iraq war has been deported by the Canadian government, but that is not for lack of effort. Immigration authorities have ordered about nine deserters to leave Canada, leading to public battles in the courts.