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Two U.S. army deserters have lost their court fight to stay in Canada, but supporters say the political battle will continue.

The Supreme Court refused yesterday to hear appeals from Jeremy Hinzman and Brandon Hughey, who sought refugee status on the grounds of their opposition to the war in Iraq.

As is usual in such decisions, the top court gave no reasons for its ruling.

Disappointed supporters say the pair's only hope of staying in Canada lies in the political arena. Otherwise, they say, the Immigration Department will likely start the deportation process to send them back to the United States and the military justice system.

"I think the focus now turns to a political solution to this problem," said Jeffry House, lawyer for the men.

Jane Orion Smith of the Quaker group Canadian Friends Service Committee, said the next step is for Parliament "to create a provision for them to stay."

"We will be working with our community and others to encourage MPs to help create such a provision. ... There simply needs to be political will."

Ms. Smith said exceptions have been made in the past for Vietnam-era draft dodgers and for the Vietnamese boat people. New Democrat MP Olivia Chow said she will introduce a motion urging the Conservative government to step in: "The minister must intervene and allow the war resisters to stay in Canada."

But Immigration Minister Diane Finley made it clear she won't do that.

"The Supreme Court ruled, backed by two previous court rulings and a ruling by the Immigration and Refugee Board, Canadians want a refugee system that helps true refugees," she said in a statement.

"All refugee claimants in Canada have the right to due process and when they have exhausted legal avenues, we expect them to respect our laws and leave Canada."

The two privates fled the U.S. army in 2004 after their units were ordered to Iraq.

Mr. Hinzman came to Canada in January along with his wife and son. Mr. Hughey arrived in March. They declared their opposition to the Iraq war, which they called immoral and illegal. They asked to be declared refugees and allowed to stay.

However, separate decisions from the Immigration and Refugee Board in 2005 rejected their claims.

They failed to demonstrate they were fleeing from "a well-founded fear of persecution," which is a basic standard for a refugee ruling.

One judgment said they would not be at risk of their lives if they returned to the United States, nor would they risk "cruel and unusual treatment or punishment."

Both would face jail time if convicted of desertion by a court martial.

The Federal Court and the Federal Court of Appeal also dismissed their appeals.

Lee Zaslofsky of the War Resisters Support Campaign in Toronto said he believes the two won't be thrown out of Canada right away.

"The process includes a 'pre-removal risk assessment,' which, if they decide to use it, will take some time to process," he said.

"The interests of any children are considered paramount, and this may have importance in Jeremy Hinzman's case because of his son, who is about five years old."

Ms. Chow and other supporters are trying to tie the case to the Bush administration and its war in Iraq, both of which raise hackles on many Canadians. They also conjure up memories of the Vietnam War, when tens of thousands of American draft dodgers and deserters found haven in Canada.

"To deport courageous war resisters who oppose the illegal invasion of Iraq is saying 'yes' to George W. Bush's war and 'no' to our proud tradition of supporting and protecting people seeking peace," Ms. Chow said.

"It's not in Canada's interest to carry water for the Bush administration," Mr. House said. "These are people who are popular in Canada in the same way that the war in Iraq is unpopular."

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