By Debbie Gregory.
A voluntary military has proven to be more effective and professional than a drafted military, and it made the matter of deserters a slam-dunk case. On April 29, 2013, Pfc. Kimberly Rivera, a female soldier in the U.S. Army, pleaded guilty to two counts of desertion. Rivera fled to Canada to avoid a second tour of duty in the Iraq War. She was sentenced to 10 months in prison, and a bad-conduct discharge after entering her plea at the court-martial.
During the Vietnam War thousands fled to Canada to avoid the draft. Canadians welcomed them. Today Canada’s Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB) has not been as welcoming.
Pfc. Kimberly Rivera was on leave in 2007 when she crossed the Canadian border, after she received her orders for a second tour in Iraq. Rivera, a wife and mother of four, professed that she could no longer support the U. S. mission in Iraq. Rivera’s application for permanent residency in Canada was denied, and Canadian immigration officials ordered her and her family to leave Canada or face deportation. She appealed the decision.
In 2012, she again received a deportation order. Canada’s Parliament has voted twice to stop deporting Iraq War resisters and to let them stay—reaffirming Canada’s proud tradition of welcoming conscientious objectors. But the minority Conservative government refused to respect the traditions and democratic decisions of Canadians, and instead has deported war resisters. Rivera surrendered to U.S. authorities and was taken into custody in September, 2012.
Rivera’s civilian defense attorney, James Matthew Branum, argued on Rivera’s behalf that she never filed for status as a conscientious objector because she didn’t know the option was available to her.
On March 29, 1975, President Ford signed Proclamation 4360, Terminating Registration Procedures Under Military Service Act, eliminating the registration requirement. The end of the U.S. draft in 1973 and the conversion to an all-volunteer force didn’t put an end to conscientious objectors – individuals who, due to deeply held religious, moral or ethical beliefs, resist military service. It did, however, force a shift – from trying to stay out to trying to get out.
Most people associate Conscientious Objector (CO) status with a draft, since that involves forced induction into the military. Perhaps that’s because the number of CO applications exploded during the Vietnam War—the last time Americans faced a draft. But even in today’s all-volunteer force, it’s still possible to request and be granted CO status, even if you’ve served for many years. It is possible, but extremely uncommon.