Military Deserters Playing ‘Refugee Roulette’

By: Rachel Marsden

There’s game being played in Canadian courts by American military flake-outs.  It’s called ‘refugee roulette’:  Volunteer for the US military, escape to Canada, claim that war disturbs you, and see if you’ll be the lucky one to finally break through and receive a lifetime pass to welfare, health care and Tim Horton’s donuts.

The latest player to advance in the game and skirt elimination is Joshua Key, who while serving in Iraq, apparently didn’t like having to bust down doors and boss people around while searching homes for possible weapons capable of killing himself and his colleagues.  According to his Canadian immigration hearing board:

“Mr. Key performed at least seventy raids on the homes of Iraqi citizens ostensibly looking for weapons.  None of them was pleasant.  In the blackness of night, doors blown in, homes ransacked, personal effects looted, residents violently roused from their beds and forced outdoors by heavily armed and uniformed soldiers hollering in a foreign language, Muslim women shamed by their exposed bodies, boys too tall for their age, and men cuffed and hauled away for interrogation in their nightclothes, regardless of weather conditions, never, at least as far as Mr. Key could ascertain, to return.”

So we’ve gone from being able to waterboard the Viet Cong without much hoopla (even the French did it in the Algerian War back in the 1950s), to it now being unacceptable to yell at the enemy in our own language?  Does the Geneva Convention now have to be interpreted as though it was written to dictate behavior for family dinners at the local Applebee’s?

As for Muslim women being “shamed by their exposed bodies”, it wouldn’t take much – perhaps a seductive elbow popping out from under the hijab.  And “weather conditions” are now a factor when working in enemy territory?  Does this mean the military can only perform search and seizures on “beach days” now?  And is it their problem that Mr. Key wasn’t able to personally see all the arrestees back to their homes?  Perhaps he should have applied for a job as a porter at the Ritz-Carlton rather than a job with the US military?

The answer to all these questions is a resounding “maybe” – because a Canadian Federal Court judge has just decided to kick Key’s case back down for another Refugee Board hearing.  Judge R. L. Barnes stated in his decision:  “In my view, the Board erred in its interpretation of Article 171 of the UNHCR Handbook by concluding that refugee protection for military deserters and evaders is only available where the conduct objected to amounts to a war crime, a crime against peace or a crime against humanity.”

Apparently it’s enough for wartime behavior to simply offend the delicate sensibilities of the “international community”.

But then the judge goes on to cite, as supposed “supporting evidence”, a case where an Iranian soldier was granted refugee status because he objected to gassing Kurds.  And we’re supposed to equate that with a US soldier who’s essentially complaining that arrestees weren’t allowed to bring an umbrella on their perp walk?

Nevertheless, it looks like Joshua Key gets to step up for another spin in the game.  Others – like Robin Long and Jeremy Hinzman – exhausted their luck, the Canadian court system…and, not coincidentally, my patience.

Long was drop-kicked back across the border last month when his Federal Court appeal failed.  Reportedly when he heard liberals chanting that there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, he suddenly lost his motivation to fulfill the military service contract he voluntarily signed, and crossed the border with “a bunch of hippies” to avail himself of some free health care – and, according to the National Post, welfare.

Hinzman’s appeals for more refugee roulette game tokens were also denied – ultimately by the Supreme Court of Canada, in refusing to hear the case after he had lost at the Federal Appeals Court level.

Hinzman joined the army, trained as a paratrooper, then discovered Buddha and the anti-war Quakers and said he was seduced into military service by slick ads.  He claimed to have “conscientiously objected” to certain routine missions, preferring to pick and choose like he’s at the Red Lobster buffet.

Look, here’s a tip for anyone thinking of joining the army:  If you object to war, there are other things you can do in life.  No one is forcing you to sign up.  Hinzman here sounds like he’d make a great yoga instructor, for example.

Much whining from these types has ensued, both during their respective cases and afterwards, about the hard jail time they’ll have to endure, should they be deported back to America and court-martialed.  And by “hard time”, I mean somewhere between nine months and a year – which I suppose is a lot in “PlayStation years” for these kids.  That’s, like, a LOT of episodes of Prison Break or American Idol, man!

The best way to be a “war resister” is to not volunteer to fight in one.  These people’s lack of career counseling ought not to be Canada’s problem – particularly when the country is trying to focus its own resources and citizens on fighting the war on terrorism in the Mideast.


Rachel Marsden is a New York based political and media strategist, and the CEO and Editor-in-Chief of  Her first book about politics is due out next year.  She can be reached at