“It’s a day of action to try to help these characters stay in the country,” said Daryl Shandro, a member of Sudbury’s War Resisters Support Campaign.
Shandro said the group also wanted to update people on the campaign and show the “breadth of support” for it in the community.
Last December, the House of Commons Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration passed a resolution recommending that the government immediately implement a program to allow war resisters and their families to stay in Canada. It also called for an immediate halt to deportation proceedings in these cases.
The rally participants were asked to sign letters to Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Liberal Leader Stephane Dion, encouraging them to act on the resolution.
Some of the rally participants marched the letters to the post office.
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"He looks at me and says, 'Why?' I had no answer about why this guy died."
Randall has found safe harbour in London and he's applying for permanent residency in Canada.
"We're going to protect you," a woman at the back of the room promised when Randall had finished his speech.
Randall could face as much as 15 years in prison for desertion.
He said he feels confident he won't be hounded by the U.S. military as it doesn't have the time to track down him or others.
Yesterday was the National Day of Action in support of U.S. war resisters and about 50 American veterans of the Iraq War and others gathered at the Canadian Embassy in Washington to demand that the Canadian government allow hundreds of resisters to remain in Canada.
Locally, the War Resisters Support Group of London organized the library event, wrote letters to MPs and sold T-shirts and buttons to help support Randall, Mull and another U.S. resister living here.
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While on patrol, Burmeister was struck by shrapnel from a roadside bomb and was sent to Germany to recover. He was told that he would have to return to Iraq, even though he said he wasn't fully healed from the bomb blast injury.
"I just couldn't take it any more, so I left the day before I was supposed to go back," he said.
On May 4, 2007, Burmeister arrived in Toronto. Deserting the army was not a decision he took lightly, but a necessary choice, he said.
"The way I saw it was that I wouldn't be killing people any more," he said. "I wouldn't die over there for a useless reason."
There are about 50 known Iraq war deserters in Canada. There are about four living in Ottawa, said Joel Harden, a volunteer with the War Resister Support Campaign.
These soldiers have followed the same path of tens of thousands of Vietnam draft dodgers who crossed the border in the 1960s and '70s to avoid service in that war.
The greatest difference between the two groups is that those fleeing Iraq were not conscripted into service and willingly signed up.
The Ottawa brunch, followed by a downtown march, held to support war resisters was one of several organized events being held yesterday across the country.
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