9.21.2012

the rivera family leaves canada. our hearts break, our anger rises.

Now that some of the details have been made public, I need to write about my experience yesterday and the last few days.

As the public battle to keep Kimberly Rivera and her family in Canada raged, there was, simultaneously, a more private effort to help the Rivera family personally. The War Resisters Support Campaign - especially one person, and many of you know who she is - made heroic efforts to minimize the trauma to the family.

The night before the actual deportation, Kim said goodbye to her children, not knowing when she will see them again. What more can be said about such a scene - so painful, so unjust, so completely unnecessary.

Kim then went with our lead organizer to Kingston; they spent the night near the border. In the morning Kim surrendered to authorities and was immediately taken into custody at Fort Drum.

Meanwhile, Thursday at dawn, a few campaigners met at the Riveras' apartment. We packed up a large passenger van (which we had rented specifically for this) with the kids and their backpacks, the younger children each clinging to a favourite stuffed animal.

Allan drove the van with Mario Rivera and all the kids, and I went in another car with a campaign friend and comrade, and we drove to Buffalo.

At the Buffalo border, we waited in the parking lot of the duty-free store, giving the kids juice and keeping the younger ones entertained while we worked out the final details of Mario and the kids getting to Texas.

Once that was done, we went to the CBSA office. Mario presented himself and got his official papers.

Next we had to cross the US border. Naturally, the guard in the booth couldn't understand the situation - "What do you mean you're helping him move? Why can't they move themselves?" - and ordered us all in to the station. Fortunately, though, this did not turn out to be a major hurdle. We merely explained the complicated situation - omitting any mention of military desertion, as it's hardly relevant at that point - showed our various identification, including Mario's birth certificate from Texas, and were soon on our way.

Then we drove into Buffalo and helped Mario with the final arrangements of his trip. We transferred the kids to another van and said goodbye. The Rivera family - minus their mother, the head of their household, their rock - began their 22-hour drive to Texas.

* * * *

These complex plans were made while the Campaign was simultaneously churning on all cylinders (and then some) organizing press conferences, statements from endorsers, interviews, massive petition drives and leafletting campaigns, demonstrations, and whatever else.

It's been an incredible effort, buoyed by tens of thousands of Canadians who called on the Harper government to show compassion and to respect Canadian tradition.

This government is a disgrace.

This morning I learned that after it was confirmed in the House of Commons that Kim had left Canada, a huge cheer went up from the Conservative bench. Whoo-hoo, a government has split up a family and sent a woman of peace to prison. Aren't they big and strong.

What breed of evil is this?

* * * *

Last Sunday, along with several core Campaigners, I attended an Appreciation Dinner for Kimberly Rivera, hosted by the Toronto Quakers. It was an opportunity to spend quiet time with Kim - to share a meal, to express our love and gratitude, and our solidarity.

After dinner, there was a brief ceremony in the Quaker tradition. Kim thanked us for all the love we have shown her and her family, and for all our efforts on their behalf. She said, "No matter what happens, my experiences in Canada have changed me forever. Through people like you and so many others I have met, I discovered whole new worlds. I discovered myself. No matter what happens, nothing will ever take that away from me."

12 comments:

M@ said...

It's funny how the pattern is seen again and again in modern society. Those who resist show incredible strength and bravery in the face of insurmountable power. And those in power show the most craven cowardice and fear, and yet they ultimately (usually) get their way.

I'm impressed and heartened that the Resisters movement exists, and has made so much progress for resisters. While it is abominable that these setbacks occur -- and I don't mean to trivialize a huge blow to some very real people as a "setback", so please excuse the language -- it's impressive that a small group of hardworking, motivated people like the Resisters can do so much.

Better days tomorrow -- that's all we can hope for, and work for.

laura k said...

Thank you, Matt. Your language is correct and it's welcome. For our movement, this was a setback, but not a defeat.

The injustice done to the Rivera family touched so many Canadians, and broadened and strengthened our movement.

If this government thinks we are giving up and going away, they still have no idea what we're made of.

M@ said...

Hey, I've seen you guys up close and personal with actual members of this government. If I were on the other side of the debate, I'd be afraid too.

In other news, fuck this government.

allan said...

Whoo-hoo, a government has deported a woman and split up a family. Aren't they big and strong.

Hasn't your quality of life improved since the Riveras are gone? Isn't the Canadian economy stronger?

Presumably, the sociopaths who cheered this decision then went out and stomped some puppies to death to round out their day.

allan said...

It's shit like this that makes me wish their was an afterlife. I'd like to see Kenney explaining how it was a Christian thing to harass and deport a peaceful woman who followed the First Commandment and refused to kill people.

It is a cliche, but since this government touts itself as Christian, one has to ask: How would Christ treat Kim Rivera?

Silver Lining: There are no doubt some Iraqis still alive today because so many war resisters said NO!

laura k said...

Silver Lining: There are no doubt some Iraqis still alive today because so many war resisters said NO!

Yes. And maybe some war resisters, too. Some surely would have taken their own lives by now, as their consciences couldn't bear what they were being made to do.

M@ said...

Some would also have been killed in combat too. There's no shame in not wanting to be killed by others because of the job you're doing. It's not cowardice, it's freedom.

Funny how the personal-freedom-and-personal-responsibility crowd are so eager to let the government decide how and where some people should die. Whereas taxing the rich is literally literally Hitler.

laura k said...

Hey, I've seen you guys up close and personal with actual members of this government. If I were on the other side of the debate, I'd be afraid too.

Heh. Thanks.

laura k said...

Some would also have been killed in combat too. There's no shame in not wanting to be killed by others because of the job you're doing. It's not cowardice, it's freedom.

So, so true. When people call war resisters cowards, I (besides seething) want to ask: You don't think you'd be afraid to die? And, what's wrong with being afraid? What fool would be in war and not be afraid??

Dharma Seeker said...

This stupid, heartless, wrong-headed government has, in a way, created a martyr. I am even more strengthened in my resolve knowing there is nothing I can do for Kim right now but keep fighting. It's absolutely what she wants, and we're not going to let her down.

Charlie Diamond said...

Thank you Laura for your blog and all the loving work you put into it. Your blog is a source of strength for those of us fighting for social justice in such a hostile environment.

Charlie Diamond

laura k said...

Aw thank you, Charlie.