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Canadian politicians meet with U.S. deserter

March 15, 2009 |  4:52 pm

Lanowlong Two members of Canada's Parliament met Sunday with a U.S. Army deserter being held at the brig at Miramar Marine Corps Air Station in San Diego.

Olivia Chow and Borys Wrzesnewskyj were among those who opposed the Canadian government’s decision to deport Robin Long so that he could stand court martial for desertion. Long, now 25, fled to British Columbia in 2005 when his Fort Carson, Colo.-based unit was ordered to deploy to Iraq.

"It's very sad to see a young man who wants only peace but has lost his freedom because he spoke out against the war in Canada," Chow said after an hourlong visit with Long.

Canadian authorities rejected Long’s bid for political asylum as an anti-Iraq war protester. In August, he was sentenced by a military judge to 15 months behind bars and sent to Miramar.

Chow and Wrzesnewskyj came to San Diego to show continuing solidarity for Long and to restate their opposition to the Canadian government’s bid to deport other U.S. military deserters.

"We have a culture of peace in Canada, of finding peaceful resolutions to conflict," Wrzesnewskyj said. Deporting deserters "undermines that principle."

Long is set to be released in July, but as a convicted felon, he will not be able to return to Canada where his girlfriend and their 3-year-old son still live. Brig rules prohibit Long from talking to reporters but recent visitors report he is holding up well in confinement.

"He's a sweetheart," said Dawn O'Brien, leader of the San Diego chapter of Military Families Speak Out. "He's doing very well and he was very pleased for the visit."

Chow is scheduled to speak Monday night at a rally of anti-war activists, 7 p.m. at the Joyce Beers Community Center, 4065 Vermont Street, San Diego.

Long, who is from Boise, was the first American deserter to be deported after seeking sanctuary during the Iraq war.

His supporters, including San Diego anti-war activists, feel he was singled out by Canadian authorities because of his outspoken opposition to the Iraq war.

[An earlier version of this story incorrectly spelled Wrzesnewskyj as Wrzesnewsky.]

-- Tony Perry

Photo: Robin Long, in custody at Miramar Marine Corps Air Station. Credit: Military Families Speak Out