war resisters event in mississauga: report

The war resisters event last night in Mississauga was excellent. After brief talks by war resisters Chuck Wiley and Kimberly Rivera, we watched "War Resisters Speak Out". The one-hour film was created from a past Campaign event, in which CBC radio host Andy Barrie - who came to Canada after deserting from the Vietnam War - interviewed a dozen Iraq War resisters who are seeking refuge in Canada. The movie is an amazing organizing tool - moving, informative, compelling.

After the film, Campaign organizer Michelle Robidoux gave a little update on our political situation, then I chaired a question-and-answer discussion between the audience and the resisters.

It was a great discussion, with many attendees making the undeniable connection between the increasing militarism in Canada and the government's refusal to allow US war resisters to stay here.

Perhaps the most gratifying part of the evening for me came as we were leaving: two people who attended told me they wanted to plan their own event in Waterloo. They are university students who learned about this issue for the first time, and now feel compelled to act.

The only minor disappointment was the turnout was low, only about 20 people. On the other hand, most people were new to this issue, and a lot of education and awareness-raising was taking place. That's more important than numbers.

The Mississauga News was there. Here's their story:
No going home for them

Chuck Wiley wakes up at 4:30 a.m. every day and still has trouble choosing his own clothing.

Kimberly Rivera’s home is packed up in boxes, knowing her family’s stay in Toronto could soon come to an end.

Both are American war resisters who spoke last night at the Central Library during an intimate film screening and discussion about the uncertain future of military service men and women who went AWOL and fled to Canada.

“Coming to Canada was the first decision my husband and I ever agreed upon,” said Rivera, who grew up in Mesquite, Texas, a suburb east of Dallas. She headed for Canada in 2007 after being deployed in Iraq. She couldn't reconcile herself with the damage the war there was doing to civilian families.

“I realized that I wasn’t protecting anything in Iraq, I was just making it worse.”

Both Wiley, a Chief Petty Officer in the navy, and Army Specialist Rivera changed their positions on the war during their time in Iraq.

Meanwhile, both have been denied refugee status in Canada and fear they will soon be deported back to America, where they will serve jail time and be tarnished with a criminal record for life.

“I had to do it the way I did (coming to Canada), to get the story out,” said Wiley, a native of Baton Rouge, Louisiana. “If I had sat quietly in the United States and chosen to take a sentence, then it wouldn’t have changed anything.” [More here.]

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