Canada Ready to Deport U.S. Deserters

"I tried to quit my job because I was stressed out. I was sent home on leave for two weeks and I told my boss I wasn't coming back," he said. "I didn't believe the National Guard had any right being there. I had been in the states eight months hiding out before coming to Canada."

For the first eight months of 2006, Glass hid out in the United States. In August, he went to Toronto, where he currently lives and works as a funeral director. He was discharged from the National Guard in December 2006.

"The Army called my mother and told her I would be treated as a felon and never be able to find a job," Glass told ABC News after learning he had been discharged. "But I never got anything official. I guess I never really asked."

A deserter is defined as a solider absent without authority for 30 consecutive days. Technically, deserters can face capital punishment, court martial, imprisonment of up to three years, forfeiture of all pay and a dishonorable discharge.

In practice, however, many are administratively discharged without court-martial and given discharges worse than fully honorable, but better than dishonorable.

"Most deserters are discharged administratively and not court-martialed," said Lt Col. Anne Edgecomb, an Army spokeswoman. "If someone deserts and that's their only offense, we're not going to send someone out to find you."

Glass was given a "general under honorable conditions" discharge, which is not as good as an "honorable" discharge, but it also carries none of the negatives associated with a dishonorable discharge, which is the equivalent of being charged with a felony.

According to Edgecomb, Glass is likely still eligible for many benefits.

In 2006, 3,301 troops out of 492,728 soldiers deserted from the Army, according to Defense Department statistics.

News that Glass had been unknowingly discharged was "bittersweet" said Michelle Robidoux, a spokeswoman for the War Resisters Support Campaign, which organized the protests scheduled for Thursday.

Despite his discharge, Glass remains in the Individual Ready Reserve, which means there is a small but still real chance he could be called up to serve in Iraq.

"It is bittersweet, if they had given him a real discharge this would be amazing," Robidoux said. "It is a poisoned gift. He may be discharged but he is still on the hook. He can still be called back to serve in Iraq."

In May 2008, Glass learned that he lost his last appeal to be given refugee status and would be deported July 10.

Canadians overwhelmingly support giving American deserters refugee status. In parliament the votes lined for and against the resolution to freeze deportations lined up along party lines. All those opposed to the resolution were members of Prime Minister Stephen Harper's minority conservative coalition.

Harper took office in 2006 pledging to improve relations with the United States, leading the deserters' supporters to claim the Immigration Ministry's decision to overlook the resolution and follow through on the deportations was purely political.

"We have a minority government behaving like a majority government and ignoring the will of parliament. The program won a majority in parliament but the government is opposed to it for purely ideological and political reasons," Robidoux said.

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