Court ruling good news for U.S. war deserters, supporters say

Posted by admin on Apr 8th, 2011

By Bradley Bouzane, Postmedia News April 8, 2011

The Federal Court has ruled in favour of U.S. military deserter who was seeking a judicial review of two previous decisions refusing him the right to remain in Canada. Dean Walcott, 28, left his military service in 2006 and fled to Canada without permission. The former marine, who had completed tours of duty in Iraq and Kuwait, said he would suffer “severe consequences” if he was returned to the U.S., including possible physical and psychological harm from his peers and former commanders. In 2008, Walcott’s applications to stay in Canada through a Citizenship and Immigration risk assessment and on humanitarian grounds were both denied.

The new decision from Judge Yves de Montigny, dated Tuesday, read that the officer investigating both original applications “failed to conduct any analysis of hardship when assessing these risks.” The decision was based on a hearing that was held in December 2010.

A spokeswoman for a Canadian support group for U.S. deserters said Thursday that the decision proves that many such cases do not receive proper treatment.

Michelle Robidoux of the War Resisters Support Campaign said Thursday that the group is “very encouraged” by the decision and hopes it will provide more fair treatment for U.S. deserters living in Canada. She said the group is working with about 40 resisters, about half of whom already have gone before the courts to plead their cases to stay in Canada.

“These are pretty significant findings and it will have an impact on the cases that are pending for other war resisters, who similarly had their (pre-risk assessments and humanitarian applications) rejected,” Robidoux said. “The decision really addresses the fact that, for whatever reason . (immigration officers) are giving cookie-cutter decisions.”

The judge wrote that Walcott had argued the investigating officer did not provide reasons for many of the conclusions that led to the original refusals, “especially for her finding that the applicant would not be subjected to disproportionate punishment based on his public opposition to the war in Iraq.”

It was also found that the officer “mischaracterized” the risks faced by Walcott, which was also a contributing factor in the decision.

Walcott fled to Canada from the U.S. in 2006 after being stationed at a U.S. base to train other soldiers.

Prior to that, he served in Iraq and Kuwait and in 2004, he was stationed in Germany, where he helped wounded soldiers.

It was there that Walcott developed post-traumatic stress disorder in 2004 and then later fled his U.S. posting after “he determined that he could not, in good conscience, continue doing such training,” according to the summary of facts in Tuesday’s decision.
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