9.13.2008

keep canada canada, part 4: let them stay

In the 1960s and 70s, tens of thousands of people left the United States and came to Canada. Some of them were escaping conscription. These "draft dodgers" became the most famous to make the exodus, but they were not the only war resisters of their era.

There were people like Andy Barrie, who deserted the military after voluntarily enlisting. After people saw what was really happening in Vietnam, their consciences could not allow them to participate.

There were people like Carolyn Egan, who left the US because they didn't want to live in a country that would perpetrate such a war.

More than 50,000 US war resisters came to Canada in those days, possibly as many as 80,000. Canada didn't take them in right away. There was a political battle, much like today. But the majority of Canadians were opposed to the US war in Southeast Asia, and they wanted to offer refuge to people who felt the same way. They didn't think people should be punished for refusing to kill.

Canada became known the world over as, in the words of Pierre Elliott Trudeau, "a refuge from militarism". Canadian troops were used for peacekeeping, and its land was a refuge for peace-loving people.

Now that legacy is threatened. Some Canadians with different values - a minority, I believe - want Canada to act the tough guy, to flaunt a military swagger, to take its cue from its militaristic southern neighbour. They want Canada to be a more active participant in war, and they want to punish people who reject war.

I don't think the majority of Canadians want this. But if the usually silent and complacent majority doesn't speak up - now, and loudly - that's what we'll have.

Today, join a demonstration.

Tomorrow, tell the candidates in your riding how you feel.

Go to all-candidate meetings and raise the issue.

Write a letter to your local newspaper.

Hang a sign in your window: Stop The Deportations, We Support US War Resisters.

Keep Canada Canada: let US war resisters stay.

4 comments:

Nancy said...

We had a small group downtown today...and some people signed with pleasure...others disagreed, but did so coherently, without yelling.
I hear the Toronto demonstration was excellent and well attended?

Cornelia said...

Great article! Yep, from what I know, there had to be a lot of political pressure first, too back then! Maybe off topic, but if somebody knows whether there has been a credible case, that would be very interesting: I read in a book in a library (which was a horrid bangle, by the way, so I don't know whether the info can be trusted, but curious nonetheless) that Johnson wanted to dictate letters to his coworkers while he was using the bathroom with the door open! If he really did something as disgusting and abusive as that (I oppose the guy anyway strongly because of Vietnam, but if he did even that, I'd find him even much worse!!!), does anybody know a case of a person coming to Canada for workers'rights protection and freedom from coprophelic work abuse during that time? Like, for example "Can you give me protection, the President has not yet tried to subject me to the draft, but he tried to subject me to...having to...and I don't know what he will think of next if I just quit my job with him..."

L-girl said...

Cornelia, it's true, LBJ is famous for making people meet with him while in the bathroom - not dictating letters, but other high-ranking officials, serious meetings. That's one piece of a big picture. None of the people who ever met with Johnson in the men's room ever came to Canada to escape, tho. :)

Cornelia said...

Sorry Laura, first I got it wrong twice when I tried to post my reply to this, so this is the place where it fits in, and that was the post I am refering to:
So sorry...! That would have been a great story! I would never have accepted that bathroom business that's why I thought of whether somebody had come to Canada because of this sort of abuse and degrading treatment and danger for liberty and limb!!!