TORONTO - An American soldier who sought refuge in Canada after she became disillusioned with the Iraq war has been ordered to leave the country by today.
Kimberly Rivera has said she will comply with the Canadian government's deportation order and leave the country with her family, but that hasn't stopped her supporters from hoping for a last-minute intervention.
They're calling on Immigration Minister Jason Kenney to halt Rivera's deportation, arguing that the mother of four will likely face a court martial and jail time upon her return to the U.S.
Kenney's office has said the federal government doesn't believe the U.S. subjects its soldiers to persecution.
But Ken Marciniec of the War Resisters Support Campaign says two other Iraq war resisters who were deported in the past faced year-long jail sentences upon their return.
He says if it were up to Canadians, conscientious objectors like Rivera would be allowed to stay in the country.
"No one should go to jail in any country, anywhere in the world, for conscientious objection to war," he said. "It's important for our government's treatment of Iraq war resisters to catch up with the opinion of the majority of Canadians on this issue."
Rivera, who lives in Toronto with her family, came to Canada in 2007 to avoid further military service. She has said she grew to oppose the Iraq war while she was taking part in it, and even stopped carrying her rifle with her.
She told reporters last month that her biggest fear about being deported is being separated from her young children and having to sit in a prison for politically being against the Iraqi conflict.
Rivera received her deportation order after a negative pre-removal risk assessment. That assessment ruled she would not be in danger of punishment, torture or loss of life if deported.
Marciniec said the assessment did not adequately consider the impact of the deportation on Rivera's children — two of whom were born in Canada.
"For her three oldest children...they're going to be torn away from their friends and the only school they've ever known," he said.
Rivera's lawyers have also said the ruling didn't take into account the war resister's outspoken objection to the Iraq war — something they say other publicly critical soldiers have been penalized for.
Rivera has applied for Canadian permanent residency on humanitarian and compassionate grounds, but a decision on her application is pending.
Roughly 19,000 people have signed an online petition protesting her deportation order and rallies were held in a number of Canadian cities yesterday calling on the government to let Rivera stay in Canada.
Nobel Peace Prize winner Archbishop Desmond Tutu and the American veterans organization Veterans for Peace have also spoken out against the deportation.
"Canadian supporters of Kim Rivera are still calling on Immigration Minister Jason Kenney to grant her application to remain in Canada on humanitarian and compassionate grounds" said Marciniec. "We're calling on Kenney to give a decision."