We had great signs, all directed at Jason Kenney. While the festivities were taking place inside, we held our signs onto the big plate-glass windows so everyone inside could see them. Of course, the staff closed the blinds!
There was a fair amount of media there. There aren't usually protests at these innocuous events, so reporters were very interested in us, and did many interviews.
When the ceremonies ended, we spread out, trying to cover every possible escape route. For a while I was positioned in front of a door, behind which a bunch of media was gathered, possibly for Minister Kenney. Every time the door opened to let someone in or out, we shouted, "Minister Kenney, why are you deporting war resisters?" or "Minister Kenney, when will you respect democracy?"
A police car showed up, then another. At one point there were four police, which makes one cop for every three protesters.
I was under the impression - incorrect, as it turned out - that this was not a citizenship ceremony; for some reason I thought it was something else. An onlooker heard me say this, and angrily informed me that I had ruined her friend's big day. She said she respected my right to protest peacefully, but that "it wasn't all about me".
I tried to tell her I was sorry about her friend's day, but my friend's life is being ruined. And the issue isn't about me - it's about what kind of Canada we want to live in. Of course she wasn't listening.
I'm hopeless at that anyway. When someone confronts me at a protest, usually my adrenaline is so high that I'm lucky I don't attack them and get arrested. (Ask Allan about time I jumped out of a march, grabbed an anti-choice sign, ripped it up, threw the pieces at the counter-protester's feet and jumped back in the march! That was a long time ago...)
As I mentioned, I had to leave before Kenney appeared. And as it turns out, he never did appear - not through the front door, the side doors or the back door, as far as anyone could tell.
CIC staff left in the Minister's limo. According to a reporter, Kenney's Blackberry, papers and business cards were in the backseat, so he had clearly planned to be there, too! Campaigners don't know how he got out, or if he was really gone when they left, although reporters said he had. We also heard that Kenney was late to his next appointment - with our old pal Diane Finley.
This is not the first time the Campaign has gone to meet-and greet Minister Kenney. On the eve of Chinese New Year, thousands of people attended an event at Toronto's Rogers Centre (a/k/a Skydome). And about half of them received a gift from our campaign - a little red envelope with a candy, a New Year's wish, and a message telling them about the deportations, in both Chinese and English. Carrying bright, glittery signs, campaigners wished everyone a Happy New Year and called on Minister Kenney to Let Them Stay. I wish I could have attended that one, but I might have some video from it to share.
Minister Kenney, you can run, but you cannot hide from the people. Wherever you go, we'll be there.
From the Mississauga News; click through to the story for some photos.
Protesters confront minister about war resisters
Canadian supporters of U.S. Iraq war resisters gathered outside the Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) office in Mississauga this morning to demand the Canadian government let American war resisters remain here as permanent residents.
The message was directed at Jason Kenney, the federal minister of citizenship, immigration and multiculturalism, who was at CIC to preside over a citizenship ceremony.
During the rally, organized by the War Resisters Support Campaign, U.S. Iraq war resisters were presented with the new Citizens' Citation for Peace.
Last June, the House of Commons passed a motion calling on the government of Canada to cease deportation proceedings against U.S. Iraq War resisters and their immediate families and create a program to facilitate them staying in Canada as permanent residents.
The Stephen Harper government, says the War Resisters Support Campaign, ignored the motion when it deported Robin Long from British Columbia in July.
Since then, two other Iraq War resisters who had been living in B.C. have been returned to the U.S. after exhausting all avenues of appeal through the normal immigration channels.
A public opinion poll conducted by Angus Reid Strategies found that 64 per cent of Canadians agree with the House of Commons' call for a specific program to facilitate permanent resident status for the war resisters.
Also from the Mississauga News.
'Majority of Canadians' want resisters to stay
A dozen or so people protested today outside the Citizenship and Immigration Canada office in Mississauga, pleading with Ottawa to reconsider its decision to deport U.S. war resisters.
The group, comprised of American soldiers and their families, was hoping to catch the eye of Jason Kenney, the federal minister of citizenship, immigration and multiculturalism, who was at the CIC office to preside over a citizenship ceremony.
Cooksville resident Laura Kaminker, who was at the rally, accused Prime Minister Stephen Harper's government of ignoring a motion passed in the House of Commons last June that called for Canada to cease deportation proceedings against U.S. Iraq War resisters and their families.
"We want the Harper government to respect the will of the people," Kaminker said. "(The) majority of Canadians want U.S. war resisters to be able to seek refuge in Canada. Parliament voted for it, but the Harper government just ignores it."
A public opinion poll conducted by Angus Reid Strategies found that 64 per cent of Canadians agree with the House of Commons' call for a specific program to facilitate permanent resident status for war resisters.
Kaminker believes some 50 U.S. Iraq War resisters in Canada have, officially, filed applications seeking refugee status; unofficially, that number is 100 or more, she believes.
Patrick Hart, a former army sergeant with the U.S. 101st Airborne Division, is one of three people facing imminent deportation. Dressed in fatigues and holding a placard, Hart implored Kenney not to deport him and others.
If sent back to the U.S., Hart and others face prosecution and imprisonment. "The Canadian people want us here, the parliament wants us...it's not going to hurt anyone to let us stay here and live our lives in peace," Hart said.
Last July, Ottawa deported Robin Long from British Columbia. Since then, two other Iraq War resisters who had been living in B.C. have been returned to the U.S. after exhausting all avenues of appeal through normal immigration channels.
If you hear Minister Kenney is coming to your town, stop by to say hi.