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Joshua Key
Born 1978 (age 42–43)
Place of birth Guthrie, Oklahoma
Service/branch United States Army (now deserted)
Years of service 2003 -
Rank Private
Battles/wars Iraq War
Other work various

Joshua "Josh" Key is a United States Army deserter, who fled while on leave from the Iraq War, and is a current resident of Canada. He is the author, with Lawrence Hill, of The Deserter's Tale,[1][2] a book chronicling his service in Iraq and his subsequent departure from military life.[3]

Personal life[edit | edit source]

Joshua Key was born in 1978 in Guthrie, Oklahoma, which is located just outside of Oklahoma City.

At age 20, he married Brandi Johnston and they have four children. Initially they moved to Canada together,[1][2] but she later divorced him and returned to the US with their children.[4]

Military service and desertion[edit | edit source]

In 2002 Key enlisted in the United States Army. He attended basic training and was stationed in Fort Carson, Colorado. He was deployed to the Middle East in the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

"Key served as a combat engineer for eight months in Iraq 2003." [5] "Mr. Key had told the IRB that while in Iraq with a unit of combat engineers, he took part in at least 200 raids on civilian homes."[6] When he returned home on leave, he deserted the Army in November, 2003.[5]

Key states he holds no regrets about deserting the US Army, as illustrated on the back cover of The Deserters Tale. In the book Key gives a short summary of his own life prior, during and after his tour of duty and subsequent desertion. In the book Key claims to have witnessed many troubling acts: systematic vandalism of Iraqi homes during house raids, murder of an Iraqi child, and sexual abuse of innocent women, all purportedly committed by American Soldiers and officers.

After deserting the military, Key spent 14 months in hiding in the US before going to Canada.[7]

Life in Canada[edit | edit source]

He fled to Toronto, Canada on March 8, 2005,[8] and 3 days later made a claim for asylum as a conscientious objector seeking refugee status.[5]

First hearing at Canada's Immigration and Refugee Board[edit | edit source]

Negative IRB decision: Oct 20, 2006[edit | edit source]

He had a hearing at Canada's Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB), represented by Jeffry House, but the Board rendered a negative decision on Oct 20, 2006.[8] He appealed to the Federal Court.

Successful appeal: Canada's Federal Court Ruling of July 4, 2008[edit | edit source]

On July 4, 2008, Joshua Key won a Federal Court appeal forcing the IRB to re-examine his claim for refugee status in Canada.[5][6][9][10] [3]

The IRB was ordered to take another look at Key's failed bid for asylum in an unprecedented court ruling that could affect scores of other U.S. soldiers, now in Canada, who have refused to fight in Iraq. In the decision the Federal Court found the IRB made mistakes in turning down Joshua Key's claim for asylum.

While the earlier board deemed him credible, it declined his claim for refugee status on the grounds he was not required to systematically commit war crimes. The earlier board rulings deemed that it was not important enough that he had to violate the Geneva Conventions. Federal Court Justice Robert Barnes disagreed with that earlier analysis. "Officially condoned military misconduct falling well short of a war crime may support a claim to refugee protection," Barnes wrote. Military action that "systematically degrades, abuses or humiliates" either combatants or non-combatants could provide such support, he said.[5][8]

Prior to Justice Barnes ruling, and after turning down several similar asylum claims, the refugee board had consistently held that the United States is a democracy, which affords deserters due judicial process. However, the Federal Court said the board should hear evidence on whether deserters can rely on the American government to treat them fairly regardless of its status as a democracy.[5][8]

On July 14, 2008, a Los Angeles Times editorial referred to the July 4 ruling from Canada's Federal Court with these words:

"...we should take a second look at our procedures for dealing with soldiers who allege human rights violations -- before they become deserters…[If] we would prefer not to hear shameful allegations from our own deserters and be judged by our neighbors, we cannot lightly dismiss expressions of moral outrage..."[11]

The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation's July 4, 2008 coverage of the story said that there is now a possibility that he "could qualify as a refugee."[12]

Second IRB hearing: June 3, 2009[edit | edit source]

On June 3, 2009, Joshua Key had a new hearing in front of the IRB.[7][13][14][15] Ken Atkinson,[14] the immigration board member who heard Key's case, reserved his decision.[13] Lawrence Hill was present at this hearing,[14] while supporters held a vigil outside.[16] He was represented by attorney Alyssa Manning.

Negative IRB decision: July 30, 2010[edit | edit source]

On July 30, 2010, Ken Atkinson of the IRB made a decision[17] which rejected granting refugee status to Key. Atkinson stated, “I find that the claimant is neither a . . . refugee nor a person in need of protection."[18]

Atkinson went on to say, "I find that there is adequate state protection in the USA and the claimant has not taken all reasonable steps to pursue the available state protection."[18] The IRB made this statement even after the Federal Court had previously instructed the IRB to hear evidence on whether deserters can rely on the American government to treat them fairly (see above).[5]

The negative ruling meant the Canada Border Services Agency could deport Key. Key said in a telephone interview that he is hopeful the Federal Court of Appeal would agree to hear his case, allowing him to stay in Canada.[18]

Three months later, on 22 October 2010, Wikileaks released documents on the Iraq War which dealt, in part, with civilian deaths. Key praised these leaked documents as supporting his refugee claim.[19]

See also[edit | edit source]

Notes[edit | edit source]

  1. 1.0 1.1 Key, Joshua; Hill, Lawrence (June 2007). The Deserter's Tale: The Story of an Ordinary Soldier Who Walked Away from the War in Iraq. Atlantic Monthly. ISBN 0-87113-954-5. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 Key, Joshua; Hill, Lawrence (June 2007). The Deserter's Tale: The Story of an Ordinary Soldier Who Walked Away from the War in Iraq. House of Ansi Press. ISBN 0-88784-208-9. 
  3. Hill, Lawrence (November 24, 2007). "Just desertions". Ottawa Citizen. http://www.canada.com/ottawacitizen/news/story.html?id=16d90480-ccf6-4e3d-9848-ae35143e7685&p=1. Retrieved 30 January 2009. 
  4. Joshua Key being interviewed on June 2, 2009, by Janette Luu, the host for CANOE Live, a local TV program on Sun TV in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. In this video - at 2:01 -, Joshua states "...I have an ex-wife, my four children that moved back to the United States...." [1]
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 5.4 5.5 5.6 Perkel, Colin (2008-07-04). "U.S. deserter wins appeal". The Canadian Press, and the Toronto Star. http://www.thestar.com/News/Canada/article/454497.  Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "Perkel" defined multiple times with different content
  6. 6.0 6.1 Ha, Tu Thanh (July 4, 2008). "U.S. deserter wins appeal in fight for refugee status". Globe and Mail. Archived from the original on 2 August 2008. http://web.archive.org/web/20080802023039/http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/story/RTGAM.20080704.wclaim05/BNStory/National/home. Retrieved 24 January 2009. 
  7. 7.0 7.1 Joshua Key being interviewed on June 2, 2009, by Janette Luu, the host for CANOE Live, a local TV program on Sun TV in Toronto, Ontario, Canada [2]
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 8.3 "Key v. Canada (Citizenship and Immigration) (2008 FC 838) IMM-5923-06,". Federal Court (Canada). July 4, 2008. http://decisions.fct-cf.gc.ca/en/2008/2008fc838/2008fc838.html. Retrieved 21 July 2009.  Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "Federal Court Canada" defined multiple times with different content
  9. Perkel, Colin (2008-07-04). "Refugee board ordered to rehear U.S. war dodger's failed asylum bid". The Canadian Press. http://www.cbc.ca/cp/national/080704/n070470A.html. 
  10. Carter, Lee (July 5, 2008). "Canada ruling boosts US deserter". BBC. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/7491060.stm. Retrieved 30 January 2009. 
  11. "Seeking Asylum in Canada: The case of U.S. Army deserter Joshua Key should prompt the U.S. to do some soul-searching.". Los Angeles Times. July 14, 2008. http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/la-ed-canada14-2008jul14,0,6819170.story. Retrieved 24 January 2009. 
  12. "U.S. deserter could qualify as refugee: court". CBC News. 2008-07-04. Archived from the original on 2008-07-05. http://web.archive.org/web/20080705193328/http://www.cbc.ca/canada/story/2008/07/04/refugee-ruling.html. 
  13. 13.0 13.1 Byrne, Ciara (June 3, 2009). "War deserter Joshua Key says he will be treated unfairly if sent back to U.S.". The Canadian Press, and Metro International (Vancouver). http://www.metronews.ca/vancouver/canada/article/239500. Retrieved June 7, 2009. 
  14. 14.0 14.1 14.2 laura k (wmtc blog) (June 5, 2009). "joshua key irb hearing, part one". http://wmtc.blogspot.com/2009/06/joshua-key-irb-hearing-part-one.html. Retrieved 2009-06-07. 
  15. Serba, Andrew (June 3, 2009). "Hazing, persecution cited in U.S army deserter's bid to stay in Canada". NewsFIX (Toronto Community News). http://newsfix.ca/2009/06/03/hazing-persecution-cited-in-us-army-deserters-bid-to-stay-in-canada/. Retrieved 2009-06-07. 
  16. NewsFIX Staff (June 3, 2009). "Protesters want war resister to stay in Canada". NewsFIX (Toronto community news). http://newsfix.ca/2009/06/03/protesters-want-war-resisters-to-stay-in-canada/. Retrieved June 7, 2009. 
  17. Canadian Legal Information Institute (July 30, 2010). "Key (Re), 2010 CanLII 62705 (I.R.B.); RPD File No. : TA5-03896; DE NOVO: Reasons and Decision". Canadian Legal Information Institute. http://www.iijcan.org/en/ca/irb/doc/2010/2010canlii62705/2010canlii62705.html. Retrieved 13 November 2010. 
  18. 18.0 18.1 18.2 Peter Edwards (November 4, 2010). "Refugee board rejects U.S. Army deserter". http://www.thestar.com/news/canada/article/886055. Retrieved November 6, 2010. 
  19. Ashante Infantry (October 24, 2010). "U.S. war resisters praise WikiLeaks". http://www.thestar.com/news/article/880383. Retrieved Nov 7, 2010. 

References[edit | edit source]

  • Key, Joshua; Hill, Lawrence (June 2007). "The Deserter's Tale: The Story of an Ordinary Soldier Who Walked Away from the War in Iraq". Atlantic Monthly. ISBN 0-87113-954-5 
  • Key, Joshua; Hill, Lawrence (June 2007). "The Deserter's Tale: The Story of an Ordinary Soldier Who Walked Away from the War in Iraq". House of Anansi Press. ISBN 0-88784-208-9 

External links[edit | edit source]

Video Links[edit | edit source]

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