Cindy Sheehan Urges Canada to Welcome US Deserters

By Howard Williams | July 7, 2008 | 8:22 PM EDT

Ottawa ( - America's so-called "Peace Mom" arrived Thursday in Canada's capital to urge politicians to give safe haven to U.S. military deserters escaping service in Iraq and Afghanistan. Sheehan also called on Canada to pull its own troops out of Afghanistan.

Referring to her past protests outside the White House and outside President George W. Bush's Texas ranch, Cindy Sheehan called on ordinary Canadians to pitch tents outside the residence of Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

The Ottawa visit is part of a cross-Canada tour being undertaken by Sheehan to urge the country to repeat its controversial policies of the 1960s when hundreds of American deserters wanting to avoid military service in Vietnam were given safe haven.

Most of Sheehan's audiences are students on university campuses.

The Toronto Star newspaper described her as "now the most visible face in the U.S. anti-war movement."

Talking to reporters before addressing a university audience in Ottawa Thursday, Sheehan suggested the only reason Canadian troops are in Afghanistan is to free up more American troops to fight in Iraq.

Sheehan claimed that while most Canadians opposed the Iraq war, they did not realize that Canadian troops were directly helping the U.S.-led efforts in Iraq by serving in Afghanistan.

Canadians, she said, "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.'"

Sheehan's biggest audience in Canada thus far, was about 300 students at the University of Toronto on Wednesday night, but she has been getting a fair amount of television coverage as well. Most newspapers have tucked their coverage of her tour on the inside pages, without much fanfare.

There have been no mass rallies in support of her campaign, which comes during the week that memorial services were being held for four Canadian soldiers killed in Afghanistan.

In an oblique reference to those memorial services, Sheehan told reporters: "My heart goes out to all the (Canadian) families who have had loved ones killed in Afghanistan."

She said that "until recently," Canada had been a "peace beacon" for the United States, welcoming and giving asylum to American slaves and more recently to deserters not wanting to serve in foreign wars.

Sheehan's son Casey, 24, was killed in the Baghdad suburb of Sadr City just over two years ago. He had been in Iraq for just five days when his unit was attacked with rocket-propelled grenades and small-arms fire.

Sheehan said: "I begged him (Casey) not to go to Iraq. I said 'I'll take you to Canada,' but he said, 'Mom, I have to go. It's my duty. My buddies are going.'"

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