Libby Speaking out to Support War Resisters

Libby spoke out in Parliament today to support Bill C-440 to allow war resisters to stay in Canada on humanitarian and compassionate grounds. Her speech is below.

House of Commons
September 27, 2010

Libby Speaking out to Support War Resisters

Ms. Libby Davies (Vancouver East, NDP): Mr. Speaker, I am very happy to rise in the House today to speak in support of Bill C-440 as my other colleagues from the New Democratic Party have done. First of all, I would like to congratulate the member for Parkdale—High Park for bringing forward this bill because it is a very important that is being brought forward.

I am very disturbed to hear the comments from the parliamentary secretary and to hear the member completely dis the bill and the genuine and humanitarian intent that is contained within the bill. I think the member and the government are obviously fear mongering, it is very interesting to hear that it is popular amongst the rabble. I am not sure who they mean. The bill actually has very broad support right across the country from significant organizations, from faith communities, from the war resisters support network, many organizations across the country.

So it is very disturbing that the government would undermine the bill in this way and what the intent is.

I should note that we are in second reading of the bill, so if it passes this critical vote on Wednesday, it would go to committee where there can be a further examination.

Any of the issues that the government members have raised would be perfectly in order to raise those concerns and to have a response and amendments, if necessary. But to in effect want to see the bill killed at this point is very unfortunate and something that we certainly do not agree with.

I do want to speak about this issue because one of the war resisters in Canada, Rodney Watson, is actually in sanctuary in my riding of Vancouver East in the First United Church and just had the first anniversary of being in sanctuary.

This is a young 32 year-old man who came to Vancouver in November 2006. He was deployed in Iraq in 2005. He is a very courageous young man. What he did in deciding and making a choice not to participate in the illegal war in Iraq was to make a very big decision in his life, a life-changing decision that affected him, his family, his future and he did it as a matter of conscience, as a matter of principle, of integrity about what he felt, what he had witnessed, what he had experienced in Iraq.

He chose to come to this country and many Canadians have welcomed this young man. In fact, the War Resisters Support Campaign and network across the country has unbelievable in its tremendous volunteer effort in supporting the 300 or so war resisters in Canada, probably about 40 of whom are engaged in various legal campaigns around their status here in Canada.

The bill before us today would allow someone like Rodney to apply for permanent resident status. We have to think of this in a historical context. It was not that long ago that in Canada we welcomed about 80,000 draft dodgers, war resisters from the Vietnam War. They came to this country and they are now very much a part of the Canadian society, Canadian fabric. They are people who became doctors, lawyers, professors, workers of varying kinds, people who have contributed to Canadian society and Canada is the better for the contribution of these people.

Here we are 40 years later and we see that the war resisters are fighting a tremendous battle to have their conscience respected, to find a way that they can make a humanitarian option for leaving the military. I support the bill and I know my colleagues support it because we believe that there has to be a way within the system to accommodate these war resisters who are people of conscience. I hope very much that within the House that there will be a majority vote that will allow the bill to go to committee.

I want to thank all of the folks at the War Resisters Support Campaign and network, people like Sarah Bjorkmans, who has done outstanding work; people like Reverend Rick Matthews who is the minister of mission and community life at First United Church. Basically this church has opened up its space, its mission to welcome this young man, Rodney Watson, his wife and his young son, Jordan. They are now currently involved in an application but I know they are hoping that the bill will be supported.