Canada’s New Leaf
Kimberly Rivera thought joining the Army would solve her problems. Before she enlisted in 2006, she was struggling on her Wal-Mart paycheck while her husband worked odd jobs and tended their two small kids. She knew she'd be sent to Iraq, but she didn't mind. "I thought I was helping my family and helping my country," she says. But her problems only got worse; she and Mario did nothing but fight on the phone, and the war kept eating at her. In January 2007, while she was home on leave in Mesquite, Texas, she and Mario packed up their car and headed for Toronto rather than let her return to Iraq. The old junker barely made it before breaking down.
Now 26, Rivera has more problems than ever. Her mother hasn't spoken to her since she fled to Canada, although Rivera misses her terribly. And the Canadian government keeps trying to send her home to face desertion charges. She might end up in a military prison—but says she has no regrets about her broken commitment to the service of her country. "At least I can say I never killed anyone, ever," she says. "I think that's a little more honorable."
As Rivera awaits her next court appeal in July, some 50 other American deserters are waging their own asylum battles in Canada. They've inspired rallies and parliamentary resolutions, and triggered clashes between lawmakers and Prime Minister Stephen Harper. Not long ago Iraq provoked similar passions on the U.S. side of the border. But after six years of conflict, thousands of combat deaths and innumerable scandals, most Americans are eager to move on. In some ways the war over the war now rages more fiercely in Canada than in the United States.
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