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Honouring Conscientious Objectors


The Deserter’s Tale cover


May 15, 2012
-Deborah Froese

Winnipeg, MAN. —Although it’s common practice around the world to commemorate soldiers and pivotal wars, May 15 marks a quieter, more peaceful occasion: International Conscientious Objectors Day.

On this occasion, the Commission on Justice and Peace of  the Canadian Council of Churches, of which Mennonite Church Canada is a member, sent a letter to the Honourable Jason Kenney, P.C., M.P., Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism, expressing support for American conscientious objectors (COs) to the war in Iraq. They have sought refuge in Canada since 2004.

Although international laws protect the rights of conscientious objectors, these war resisters face punishment if they return to their homes in the US. The CCC has asked the Canadian government to create a process that will allow them to remain in Canada on humanitarian grounds.

Possibly one of the most well-known US COs from the war in Iraq is Joshua Key, who, with award-winning author Lawrence Hill, shared his experience in The Deserter’s Tale (Atlantic Monthly Press, 2007).

The origin of international Conscientious Objectors Day is somewhat elusive, but the United Nations Commission on Human rights extended the concept of conscientious objection to war in 1995. Resolution 1995/83 stated that "persons performing military service should not be excluded from the right to have conscientious objections to military service." Three years later (resolution 1998/77) the Commission officially recognized that such objections could develop within an individual during military service.

The Deserter’s Tale is available through the Mennonite Church Canada Resource Centre at The related DVD, The Deserter is also available:

To read the media release from CCC, please visit their website: