Canada lower house backs asylum for U.S. deserters

.OTTAWA (AP) – Parliament’s lower house passed a nonbinding motion Tuesday allowing U.S. military deserters to stay in Canada, but the Conservative government was expected to ignore the vote.

The opposition parties banded together to bypass Conservatives members and approve the motion to grant permanent residence status to deserters and their families.

There are thought to be about 200 American military deserters who have come to Canada to avoid service in Iraq.

Canadian immigration officials and the courts have rejected efforts to grant them refugee status, and several currently face deportation.

The Conservative government, whose party members opposed the motion, is unlikely to risk straining ties with Washington over the issue or fight rulings already made by the courts and immigrations officials.

During debate last week, Conservative lawmaker Laurie Hawn, a retired military pilot, had little sympathy for deserters who volunteered to be soldiers.

“Soldiers do not get to vote for which missions they go on,” Hawn said. “Why do they not fight it within their own country in their own legal system instead of being faux refugees in Canada?”

During the war in Vietnam, thousands of American fled to Canada to avoid the draft. Many were given permanent residence status that eventually resulted in citizenship.