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.

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