6.04.2008

the day in ottawa

Although wmtc has become Resister Central, it is also still my personal blog, and the only place I record my observations of my world. So if some newer readers who have come over from the War Resister Support Campaign website thinking "wtf?" about this post, at least long-time readers will understand.

Allan gave you the run-down of the day while I was gone; now I'll fill in the blanks.

I almost had nothing to report: a lane closure on the Gardiner almost made me miss the bus! That was a little hairy, but Allan got me to 25 Cecil Street before the bus pulled away - and I was grateful to learn I wasn't the last one to get on. Thankfully a resister family with children showed up a bit later, and you know we weren't leaving without them!

On the ride up, people were tense. The younger resisters were joking around, but the banter sounded strained. The older resisters were quiet. Campaigners were more buoyant, but everyone was nervous.

One of my favourite things about this Campaign is how multigenerational it is. On the bus I had an opportunity to connect with one of our elder campaigners, a Quaker who has housed several resisters. I would have thought he was old enough to be my father, but I learned I am the same age as his grandchildren.

This man has been an activist all his life. On the same bus are former soldiers just out of high school, getting their first taste of working for change. And everyone else on the bus spans the ages in between.

We were told if we got there before 1:30, we would get into Question Period. The gallery was expected to be packed, so there was an overflow room set up in Jack Layton's office where we could also watch the proceedings on TV. Olivia Chow arranged passes for the members' gallery, where there would be more room than in the public gallery.

So we queued up, and waited. And waited. And waited. We weren't being allowed in, and we were starting to worry that the vote would go on while we were stuck in limbo.

Finally we were told there was only room for ten more people in the members' gallery, five from our group and five others. So five resisters - including Corey Glass and Josh Key (who came in from Saskatoon) went in - and the rest of us waited for Jack Layton's aide to get us upstairs.

But guess what? Later, at the pub, those guys told us there were two rows of empty seats in the Members Gallery. We were kept out.

Question Period ran late, and thank something, because we had barely squeezed in the two little board rooms when the vote was called. As you know, all our hopes hung on the Liberal Party, as we knew the NDP and the Bloc were on our side. When Stéphane Dion stood up, a huge whoop went up, and the same for Ignatieff.

It was very hard to sit through all the Tory nays. They seemed to go on for a very long time. Harper wasn't there for the vote. (Neither were some of our key Liberal supporters. We don't yet know why.)

And then, we won! And then the business of Parliament resumed. Just like that. We won.

People hugged and cried, but honestly, it was a little muted. I think people were stunned, and exhausted, and even a little confused. My friend Jamine Aponte, who is married to war resister Phil McDowell, was sobbing uncontrollably.

From there we went to the senate room, where Olivia Chow - who I call the Patron Saint of the Resisters - had a reception prepared for us. (She joked that the war resisters had taken over the Senate.) That's when I called Allan, so I was able to report to the campaign that wmtc had the news up immediately, and the Canada News Wire story had appeared within minutes of the vote.

Olivia spoke briefly, as did Meili Faille, our champion in the Bloc Québécois. Campaign coordinator Lee Zaslofsky acknowledged our supporters and our guiding light Michelle Robidoux. (More on Michelle later.) Lee acknowledged a few resisters who had done extraordinary work - Josh Key and Phil and Jamine - then all the resisters in the room. Jack Layton also made a short statement, and presented a miniature of the House of Commons to the Campaign.

Olivia also had certificates of honourary Canadian citizenship for all the resisters, in leather-bound folders like a diploma. I haven't even gotten one of those yet!

From there, thankfully, we went to a nearby pub, the same place we celebrated after our Committee victory in December. Only then did I realize how tense and quiet people had been. Drinking and laughing with Phil and Jamine, I realized it had been weeks since I'd seen Phil smile. Corey's smile can light up a room, and when I saw how happy he looked, I swear I almost started to cry again. (How convoluted is that?) So we drank and laughed and savoured.

All but one of us, whose cell phone never left her ear, and who won't let herself stop to enjoy this, because more work remains on the horizon. But as I said, more on that later.

Then it was back on the bus. Turns out we didn't stop at the LCBO (although a flask made the rounds), but we'll have plenty of time to celebrate.

I called Allan from the bus and he was waiting for me on Cecil Street. The Campaign meets tomorrow night to plan a Saturday action in Port Dover, riding of one Diane Finley. I'll skip this meeting, because when the Port Dover action ends, everyone is coming to our house!

I have a big pile of things to blog about - non-resister topics, even - but this Saturday is wmtc3 and time is tight. Going up to Ottawa the week before our party wasn't exactly on my schedule! I'm not sure how much time I'll have to blog or what I'll be able to get up.

Thank you for reading, and my deepest thanks for your support.

* * * *

Here are a few photos from the day; click to enlarge.

war resisters house of commons 03
Nervously watching the vote.


war resisters house of commons 01
Looks like we're on the verge of a win here.


war resisters house of commons 06
Meili Faille and Olivia Chow address the group. The woman in the white jacket is Sue Barnes, Liberal MP from London, Ontario, who supports the Iraq War resisters in Canada.


war resisters house of commons 02
Olivia Chow with war resister Patrick Hart. Alex Atamanenko, NDP MP from British Columbia is in the background.


war resisters house of commons 04
Jamine Aponte and Phil McDowell. Phil volunteered for the army after 9/11. He was sent to Iraq, where he witnessed war crimes, and saw the reason for the invasion was a lie. After he was honourably discharged, Phil intended to separate from the army. But he was stop-lossed: involuntarily re-enlisted with no legal way out.


war resisters house of commons 07
A group of happy resisters.


war resisters house of commons 05
All the resisters who were able to go to Ottawa for the vote.



Many thanks to Charlotte for these terrific photos.

13 comments:

John said...

It sounds like you had a fantastic day! Congratulations to you, your fellow volunteers, and all the resisters and their families.

Now, we just need to let the Harper government shoot itself in the foot a couple of more times (Hey single ministers, I hear Julie Couillard is back on the market!), then we can have an election and make the new government deal with the asylum issue properly.

L-girl said...

Thank you John! Yes, that is just what we need.

MSEH said...

I've only been able to glance at the post - and Tom and Emilio's, too - but wanted to post a quick, "Yea!!!!!!!!!!!!!!'

L-girl said...

Thanks!!!

Jaliya said...

YES!!!!

Between this and Barack Obama's sealing of the U.S. Democratic nomination -- this is a day to celebrate!

Jen said...

Oh man, I'd guessed you'd be at that pub ("near the jewelry store" Janine told me... and next door to the CBC), but I was cramming (read: panicking) for my exam today. I was all joyus vicariously through this blog post though! Yay!

West End Bob said...

Big time Congrats, L-Girl!

We've not been in the news loop on this one 'til today as we're on the road to Vancouver - FINALLY!

Good job, and thanks for all your hard work on this one . . . .

Tom said...

You're bringing tears to my eyes reading this account. Thanks for sharing.

Congratulations to you all!

M. said...

Nothing to add, just a word of respect and appreciation for the hard work you've put in, and one thank-you for all the online coverage you've been giving this issue. Educated me good.

L-girl said...

Thank you so much, everyone. M, that's a very nice thing to say. I feel really good to think this blog has educated some people on this issue.

Tom, see you Saturday!!

acomplicatedsalvationreborn said...

Hi L-girl,

The woman in the white jacket does not look like Sue Barnes/Liberal. It looks like:

Irene Matthyson NDP MP from London.

Zoe :-)

L-girl said...

Thanks Zoe! Sue Barnes is a supporter of ours, but this makes more sense, as the NDP held the reception.

Cornelia said...

Cool photos of a definitely great and very successful day, thanks. And onwards, we still need to keep up the good work...