TORONTO – An American national guardsman who refused to redeploy to Iraq was granted a last-ditch reprieve from deportation Wednesday when Canada's Federal Court said he could stay while it decides whether to hear his case.
Sgt. Corey Glass, 25, was the first Iraqi war dodger from the U.S. to face imminent deportation from Canada. Glass, who had already left his Toronto apartment and was set to return to the U.S. and possible jail time, was ecstatic.
"This is great news," Glass said minutes after the stay was granted. "It buys a lot of time."
Like other American soldiers who fled to Canada, his asylum claim was turned down on the grounds that although he faced prosecution in the U.S., he could rely on due process. Glass was served a deportation order in May.
About 200 American military deserters are believed to have come to Canada to avoid service in Iraq. Canadian immigration officials and the courts have so far rejected efforts to grant them refugee status.
Glass is asking that he be allowed to remain in this country on humanitarian and compassionate grounds.
Alyssa Manning, the lawyer was acting for Glass, said she was "definitely thrilled" at the deportation stay, which would likely last at least two months and much longer if the court actually agrees to hear the applications.
It is the second legal victory in the past week for an American deserter. On Friday, a Federal Court judge ordered Canada's refugee board to take another look at its refusal to grant Joshua Key's asylum claim.
Among the court's findings was that Key did not have to be involved in war crimes in Iraq to have a case for refugee status.
Glass said he had mixed emotions in light of friend and fellow deserter Robin Long, who is now in jail in British Columbia awaiting deportation to the U.S.
Like Glass, Long also failed to win refugee status in Canada.
"It's bittersweet. It's awesome. But there's really no celebration until he gets out of jail," Glass said.
Opposition member of Parliament Olivia Chow said it was time for Prime Minister Stephen Harper's Conservative government "to stop wasting taxpayers' money" and offer some kind of residence program for the war dodgers before the courts force them to do so.
"In the meantime, we're wasting thousands and thousands of dollars throwing people in jail and attempting to deport them," Chow said.
Glass, from Fairmount, Indiana, joined the U.S. National Guard in 2002 believing it was a "humanitarian organization." He said he was told he would never be deployed abroad to combat.
In 2005, he was sent to Iraq, where he spent five months in military intelligence. The job, he said, gave him broad insight into what was going on there. While on leave in the U.S., he decided to desert. After seven months in hiding, he fled to Canada in 2006.
Glass said he had faith he would be spared deportation because of the strong public support in Canada for the American soldiers who have fled here rather than fight in Iraq.
He said he planned now to go back find an apartment and return to his work in funeral services.
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.