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Sheehan urges Canada to provide haven for deserters
American anti-war mother asks northern neighbors to give sanctuary
The Associated Press (apwire)   
OTTAWA

An American mother whose son was killed in Iraq urged Canadians on Thursday to provide sanctuary for deserters fleeing the U.S. military.

Cindy Sheehan, who has become a leading voice in the American anti-war movement since her son was killed in 2004, told a news conference in the federal capital that Canadians should welcome people who oppose the Iraq war, just as they did during the war in Vietnam.

After her son, Spc. Casey Austin Sheehan, was killed April 4, 2004 in Iraq, Sheehan began traveling the world speaking out against the war. She began a protest outside U.S. President George W. Bush's Texas ranch last August and has drawn thousands of anti-war activists and Bush supporters at her demonstrations there.

In Canada for three days, she told students at the University of Toronto on Wednesday night that military families who are opposed to Ottawa's role in Afghanistan should camp outside the home of Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his family.

"They should take their tents and put them on the prime minister's lawn and say, 'I want to know why you're making our soldiers fight and die, and kill innocent people in Afghanistan, and I'm not moving until you let me know,'" said Sheehan, 48.

On Thursday, she spoke out against Canada's involvement in Afghanistan, saying that conflict is a subsidiary of the overall U.S. war on terrorism and that Canadian soldiers in Afghanistan free up Americans to fight in Iraq.

"Our soldiers should not have to go over and fight in this illegal and immoral war and what we would hope is that Canada would open up its borders again to our soldiers, who need this refuge and sanctuary," she said.

There currently are about 20 deserters actively seeking refugee status in Canada, and peace activists estimate there are perhaps another several hundred living underground.

Two young Americans have already had refugee claims denied by an immigration panel and the cases are under appeal.

The liberal government in Ottawa -- and a majority of Canadian people -- opposed the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 and are torn over Canada's involvement in Afghanistan, as bodies continue to come home in coffins.

But a new conservative government came to power in January and Harper has made it clear that Canada intends to keep its 2,300 soldiers in Kandahar to help rebuild that country.

Sheehan accused the Harper government of trying to mask the brutality of war by banning media coverage of the return of soldiers' bodies from Afghanistan.

"I believe it's a propaganda tactic to keep the cost of the war away from the public," she said Thursday during a visit to Parliament Hill.

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