This past Wednesday, October 3, two leading US peace activists were traveling to Toronto to attend an antiwar event. Medea Benjamin, cofounder of CODEPINK, and Ann Wright, a retired Army colonel and former diplomat, both tireless peace activists, were stopped at the border crossing at Buffalo, where they were detained and questioned for several hours.
It appears that Wright and Benjamin were denied entry into Canada because their names appeared on an FBI-run international criminal database. The women have been arrested several times while committing acts of civil disobedience to protest the war in Iraq.
You can read Wright's own description of what happened, in an interview with Amy Goodman.
NDP MP Olivia Chow called barring the women from Canada "absurd".
Both activists, clad in pink and backed by anti-war supporters holding banners, held a news conference outside the Canadian embassy in Washington yesterday.
They said they were astonished that the names of anti-war activists convicted of misdemeanours - such as trespass, the offence routinely used to clear peaceful protesters - had been added to the FBI's National Crime Information Center database.
"This is outrageous. I'm appealing to Canadians not to treat peaceful activists like common criminals," Ms. Benjamin said.
"I travel all over the world on a regular basis and Canada is the first country to use the NCIC to keep out people like us," said the veteran activist and founding director of Global Exchange, an international social justice movement.
Both women have previously visited Canada for anti-war meetings, sometimes at the invitation of Canadian activist groups or political parties.
Canadian border agents have access to the FBI's database. The border agents at the Rainbow Bridge at Niagara Falls who barred Ms. Benjamin and Ms. Wright said the mere fact that they were listed on the NCIC was sufficient to bar them from entry.
"The people at the border were almost apologetic. ... One of them said he thought the war was terrible," Ms. Benjamin said. She said the Canadian immigration official told her that he had no choice. "He said it wasn't up to him."
In Ottawa, border agency spokesman Chris Williams denied that simply being listed on the FBI's NCIC database would automatically bar someone from entry to Canada.
"Entry is always judged on a case-by-case basis," he said.
However, the actual basis for denying entry to anti-war activists remained unclear.
Sometimes I think we got out just in time.