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Iraq War resistors: U.S. soldier seeks refugee status in Canada

Special to The Canadian

GEORGIA STRAIT -- In many ways, the Watsons will celebrate a typical Christmas this year. They have a tree with gifts beneath it, some last-minute wrapping to take care of, and plans to cook a turkey dinner on Christmas Day.

But Rodney Watson, his wife, Natasha, and their son, Jordan, are celebrating the holidays in an unlikely setting for a young family: the Downtown Eastside’s First United Church.

When the Georgia Straight paid a morning visit on December 20, the church’s 200 beds for the homeless were full and its hallways congested with people preparing for the day.

The week before, Jordan celebrated his second birthday there, taking a victory lap around the church on his brand-new Toy Story quad. As happy as the occasion was, Watson said in a meeting room upstairs, there’s nothing he wants more than to take his son to the park. “That’s the hardest part about not being able to go anywhere.”

Taking sanctuary, the Watsons have lived in a one-bedroom apartment in the church since Canadian immigration authorities ordered that Watson be deported in September 2009. As a former U.S. soldier and conscientious objector to the war in Iraq, Watson likely faces charges of desertion in his country. He is one of an estimated 40 such individuals fighting legal battles to remain in Canada.

Those who want to learn more about how they can support Watson and other war resisters in Canada can visit the website of the War Resisters Support Campaign and Watson's Facebook page.

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