Christian and other peacemakers staged a 10-hour vigil outside Canada House in London's Trafalgar Square yesterday, to call on on the Canadian government to halt the deportation of US soldiers who have fled the war in Iraq.
Giant placards bearing pictures of the resisters and the words 'Canada: Stop Deporting US Soldiers Who Refuse to Fight in the Illegal War in Iraq. Grant Them Sanctuary' were exhibited by the vigil supporters - who included members of Pax Christi, Oxford Catholic Worker and the Fellowship of Reconciliation.
The event was organised by Voices in the Wilderness, which has campaigned for many years against military and economic aggression in Iraq.
There are currently at least 12 US soldiers in Canada seeking asylum. They have refused to take part in the invasion and occupation of Iraq - an invasion deemed "illegal" by the UN Secretary General, and one which critics say has led to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis. If they are returned to the US, they face lengthy periods of incarceration.
Last month Robin Long became the first US war resister to be deported, and a second war resister, Jeremy Hinzman, has now been given a 23 September 2008 deadline to leave Canada with his wife, son and baby daughter, or to be deported. Long is currently serving a jail-term in Colorado.
Though its people and Parliament both oppose such deportations, Canada's minority government has refused to halt them.
A spokesperson for the vigil said: "Between 1965-1973 more than 50,000 draft-age Americans made their way to Canada, refusing to participate in the Vietnam war. At the time, Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau said: "Those who make the conscientious judgment that they must not participate in this war... have my complete sympathy, and indeed our political approach has been to give them access to Canada.
"Canada should be a refuge from militarism. We call on Canada's Government to stand by these ideals, and to abide by the will of its people and Parliament, by halting the ongoing deportation of US soldiers who have refused to fight in Iraq."