Since deserting his unit in Iraq and fleeing to Canada two years ago, Corey Glass has become the poster boy of the war resisters movement. Thursday in Toronto, supporters are planning to protest his scheduled deportation back to the United States.
But it turns out Glass has had little reason to be on the lam, ABC News has learned.
Unknown to him and his legion of supporters, Glass, 25, was actually discharged from the U.S. Army shortly after he went AWOL in 2006.
Glass and about 40 other American deserters who, like him, sought refugee status have prompted a national debate in Canada that last month reached the floor of parliament on where to draw the line between cowardice and conscience.
"I had absolutely no idea that I had been discharged," said Glass when ABC News informed him of his status. "This is insane. This is so weird. There are no warrants? No one is looking for me?"
According to U.S. Army documents and officials, Glass was discharged from the California National Guard Dec. 1, 2006, four months after he arrived in Canada.
"He is not considered absent without leave. He is not considered a deserter," said Maj. Nathan Banks, an Army spokesman. "He is running for no reason. He is fully welcome in the United States. I cannot believe this is a big deal in Canada."
But it is a big deal in Canada, where lawmakers last month overwhelmingly passed a nonbinding resolution, 137 to 110, to freeze the deportation of American deserters, starting with Glass.
Despite the resolution, the Immigration Ministry has decided to stick by its decision and plans to deport Glass July 10.
"The resolution was nonbiding," said Karen Shadd, a ministry spokeswoman. "Canada has one of the most generous refugee systems in the world, and each case is assessed on its individual merits."
Unlike the 30,000 to 50,000 American deserters who were given legal refuge in Canada during the Vietnam War, this latest crop of runaways is viewed by Canadian immigration authorities not as conscientious objectors avoiding a draft but as volunteers unwilling to fulfill their promise to the military and undeserving of refugee status.
"These claims that are coming up now are different from those of the Vietnam era. These individuals were volunteers and were not subject to forced military subscription. That's the difference," Shadd said.
Two years ago Glass, home on leave from Iraq, Googled the world "desertion" and after reading about American soldiers who defected to Canada during the Vietnam War got in a car and crossed the border.
Glass had joined the Indiana National Guard in 2002, just after the United States invaded Afghanistan and before war was declared against Iraq. He said he joined the guard to do humanitarian work and not to fight overseas.
"The recruiter told me the only way I'd have to fight was if there was an attack on America's borders," Glass said. "When I enlisted, we were already involved in Afghanistan, and it is specifically why I didn't sign up for the Army. I thought I'd maybe have to protect a nuclear facility or an airport or provide relief after a hurricane."
In 2005, Glass was transferred to the California National Guard and deployed to Iraq, where he served as a sergeant in military intelligence for the first five months of an 18-month tour.