January 24, 2009

sad update on war resister cliff cornell

Vancouver Sun:
A U.S. army deserter living on Gabriola Island has abandoned his fight to stay in Canada.

Cliff Cornell lost his bid to quash a deportation order in federal court in Vancouver last week, and friends says he is now packing his belongings and preparing to return to the U.S., where he could face imprisonment.

Cornell is said to be too distraught to talk to the media about his ordeal.

"He told me he doesn't want to do any more interviews at this point," said Steve Watters, a former draft dodger and Canadian resident since the 1960s. He is acting as a spokesman for Cornell.

"He's in a more sombre mood, I guess you would say."

Watters said the Arkansas man plans to turn himself in to the U.S. government.

"He doesn't want to seek refugee status, he doesn't want to run, he doesn't want to hide."

Cornell grew up in Mountain Home, Ark.. In 2002, after leaving high school and with few employment prospects in sight, he accepted a $5,000 signing bonus for a career in the U.S. Army.

A few months later, the U.S. went to war against Iraq.

Cornell deserted and came to Canada in 2005 to avoid combat. He spent a few months in Toronto before moving to Gabriola Island. He has spent the past two years stocking shelves at an island market. The community of some 4,500 people has made him feel welcome.

"A lot of people are taking it pretty hard indeed," Watters said. "They're anywhere from crestfallen to extremely angry at their government."

A glum mood hangs over the Village Food Market, where Cornell worked until Monday.

"I'm having a hard time talking about it," said cashier Angela Burnett. "I guess we hoped it wouldn't happen, but it's very disappointing.

"Canada accepts a lot of people who are less worthy than him."

Watters said Cornell's plan is to return to Fort Stewart, Ga. and to turn himself in "in a matter of days or weeks."

New Democrat Nanaimo-Cowichan MP Jean Crowder said she was disappointed with the news. She wrote a letter to Immigration Minister Jason Kenney in December asking for Cornell to be allowed to stay in Canada.

"I think it's a sad comment on Canada's approach to allowing war resisters to stay on humanitarian and compassionate grounds," Crowder said.

-thanks to We Move To Canada blog for this post.

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