The event was held at a community centre; many of Kim's mom-friends from her children's school and health centre attended with their kids. The evening began with a Maya healing and prayer ceremony, conducted by a Parkdale resident in her native Spanish, with another friend translating. That set the tone of hope and peace, and also urgency.
Speakers included Geraldine Sadaway, a lawyer from Parkdale Legal Community Services, whose help has been so vital to the resisters and the campaign; actor and playwright Steven Bush, a Vietnam-era resister; City Councillor Gord Perks; a woman from Oakville who housed the Riveras when they first came to Canada; a few other resisters; and Parkdale Member of Parliament Gerard Kennedy.
In a very strong speech, Kennedy reminded us that this issue is not about a handful of Americans who will be treated badly if they are sent back. It's about the character of Canada. That's because we want Canada to go beyond mere tolerance, to fully welcome and respect all people who act on conscience and have had to leave their countries because of it.
He emphasized that the majority of Canadians, the mainstream, want war resisters to be able to stay; that it's not Kim Rivera's fight, it's our fight.
The main reason I wanted to write about this event was to share with you Kim Rivera's own words. In the community centre this week, she read a poem that she wrote. I found it very moving, and perhaps you will, too.
I was fighting your kind for killing my kind.
I was fighting to find weapons that could wipe out large populations of people.
I was fighting to free you from the bad men, that harmed you and your family.
I was fighting for your liberty.
I was fighting for peace.
I was fighting to keep my family safe from you and your family.
But in reality I was fighting to destroy everything you know and love.
I destroyed the land you live on.
I crushed your spirit.
In fighting I kept you silent.
In my fighting I oppressed your family.
In my fighting I kept you out of sight and out of the way so everything of value could be taken.
In my fighting I found that I was fighting to stay alive.
In these last thoughts of reality I find that I was becoming something that wasn't me, and that I didn't stand for as a person. In my heart everything I was fighting for wasn't great enough to give up any life.
All of my battles were very true to me.
I know from my heart through my change, that I can't fight with violent means for peace.
That peace only comes through non-violent means and humility.
My fight for peace is with my pen to share my thoughts without fear of being locked up in a deep dark place so no one can hear. Being silent doesn't help anybody and lets the people hurting many get away with hurting more.
Canada I am here.
Will you take the time and the heart to understand what I am now fighting for, with words and not a gun.
X PFC Kimberly Rivera
July 11 2008