'Campaigners' come to Babeville
Once again armed border guards held and harassed Laura while she was on her way to our War Resister event here in Buffalo. She works with the War Resister Support Campaign in Toronto and is doing nothing illegal. In her blog she wrote:
"I was in Buffalo, New York, last night for a screening of "War Resisters Speak Out" and a discussion about Iraq War resisters in Canada, and why we work to win them sanctuary.
It was a great event. I think people learned a lot and were moved by the resisters' stories, told on film in their own words. We strengthened connections with the peace movement across these artificial national borders, and people gave generously to the war resister legal defense fund. The organizers are building support for a larger event on the Canadian side which will bring together peace activists and war resisters, and continue this important work."
She went on to say: ". . . yes, I was detained. Same drill as last time, but they held me twice as long. The border guard in the booth asks the usual questions, then swipes my passport. As soon as he does that, I am asked to surrender my car keys, four armed guards descend on the car and escort me inside. This time the inside guard also asked a series of ridiculous and meaningless questions, seemingly trying to trip me up or catch me in a lie. They held me for an hour, then returned me to the car, which had been searched."
There are so many outrageous events occurring in the world, I'm out of breath. Really. I'm wishing I had a better handle on what I should be doing. I'm not a writer like Laura Kamminker or Dahr Jamail. I don't have the ability to organize and share or even think like Noam Chomsky or Howard Zinn. But like many of us, I'm hoping that together we can find some answers.
I've learned so much in the past year about resisters around the world and have met some phenomenal people. The more I learn the more I realize how little we ever see of the courageous efforts by so many against the huge vehicles of injustice. When I might have been overwhelmed by the onslaught of cruel acts and policies, these efforts continue to spark hope for me.
'Campaigners', Christine, Michelle and Janet with Marilyn and Bill from Rochester's Military Families Speak Out
The turning point for Canadian policy towards US war resisters during the Vietnam War came when some border guards stopped a war resister at the border and turned him over to the US military. Trudeau heard about it and opened the borders to "draft dodgers" and "deserters". An estimated 150,000 went to Canada with about half of them staying permanently.
The problem is the current Prime Minister, Harper, has a completely different attitude. His position is that these soldiers should fulfill the military contract they signed. Although Canada never agreed with the Iraq war and sent no troops, he still holds these men and women to an agreement they made with a government that lied to them and went to war illegally and under false pretenses. He also is not concerned with the fact that many of these soldiers changed their views after experiencing the mistreatment of the Iraq people by the US military. They are actually defending their constitution by refusing to participate.
Harper puts these soldiers and their families in a precarious position as they go through Canadian legal system trying to win their right to stay in Canada. When they run out of appeals, Harper sends them back across the border into the arms of the military to serve prison time for doing the right thing.
Thankfully there are the people in Canada who don't agree with the Prime Minister. The wonderful men and women who came down to share their stories with us are doing everything they can to feed, house, find jobs and provide legal assistance for our GI Resisters.
Toronto 'Campaigner' and Vietnam War Resister, Charlie Diamond
While the Canadians work to make Canada a safe and hospitable refuge for GI resisters once again, the work needed on our side of the border is huge. If these Canadians are willing to do all the work they do, we should be prepared to do even more since it is our government's illegal policies we oppose. It is our soldiers and their families being forced to defend the constitution by escaping the military.
Michelle Robideaux and Mary Byer