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28 Oct, 2008 08:16

Canada to deport U.S. ex-Sergeant who refused to fight in Iraq

Canada to deport U.S. ex-Sergeant who refused to fight in Iraq

Sergeant Hart defected from the Iraq war in 2004, and has been living in Canada for the past three years with his wife and son. Now Hart has been ordered to return to the U.S. to face charges and imprisonment.

Nine-year veteran Sergeant Patrick Hart made the life-changing decision to go AWOL from the U.S. army after learning that his second deployment would be to Iraq. Fellow soldiers' stories of atrocities committed by the U.S. army had warned him off fighting in the country. He says that, as a family man, he was concerned that Iraq would leave him scarred by his experiences.  

One of my buddies is telling me that he has a six-year-old daughter,“ Hart says. ”But now he sees the faces of these Iraqi kids he's run over every night before he goes to bed… So I'm thinking, if I go there, will I get mentally screwed up like those guys? Am I going to be able to interact with my son properly?

Hart is now living with his six-year-old son Rian and wife Jill in Toronto after the family came to join him in 2005. Jill is an office manager for a nightclub in Toronto, while Rian is just about to complete his first semester at his local school.

However, despite the community in Toronto welcoming the Harts with open arms, on October 8 the family was ordered by the Canadian government to leave the country voluntarily, or be deported back to America on October 28.

Canada officially opposed the Iraq war, and lobby groups such as the War Resisters Support Campaign feel their country is contradicting its position by deporting a resister of the conflict back to the U.S.

The government's policy is also at loggerheads with the majority opinion of its people. According to an Angus Reid national poll conducted last June, 64% of Canadians want to grant permanent resident status to U.S. war resisters.

Major figures in favour of the deportation policy include crown lawyer Stephen Gold. Gold worked on Jeremy Hinzman's case last September, where he argued that Hinzman and other U.S. war resisters like him were owed nothing by the Canadian government. “The applicant (Hinzman) is going back to face the consequences of his own actions“, Gold stated. ”That cannot be laid at the feet of the Canadian government.”

Hart's wife Jill expresses her thanks to the War Resisters Support Campaign for rallying against figures like Gold, and to the Canadian people for giving their support: “We have had three wonderful years in Canada as a family. We owe Canadians an enormous amount of gratitude for welcoming us and allowing us to stay for the past three years.

The harshest punishment for deserting the US army is five years’ imprisonment. Patrick Hart is hoping for greater leniency from the military tribunal, but is ready to accept any verdict.

For anyone thinking I've taken the easy route, it's not easy by any stretch of the imagination,“ Hart says. ”But it is what it is, and I'll stand by what I've done.
Nicola Seth-Smith for RT