LET THEM STAY The War Resisters Support Campaign holds a rally in support of American resisters, with speakers Shirley Douglas, Lawrence Hill and Olivia Chow. Saturday (January 26), 1 pm. Free. Bloor Street United Church (300 Bloor West). 416-598-1222, www.resisters.ca. Rating: NNNNN
Why this rally?
The is one of a number being held across Canada because we believe we are close to a decision on two issues: that deportation proceedings against U.S. war resisters currently in Canada cease immediately; and that a provision be enacted by Parliament ensuring that U.S. war resisters refusing to fight in Iraq have a means to gain status in Canada.
On December 6, the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration passed a motion recommending that the government immediately implement a program to allow war resisters and their families to stay in Canada. We want it brought before a full House of Commons, which is back in session on January 26. We believe the three opposition parties are united in support of this. How often does that happen?>
How many Iraq War resisters are in Canada?
We estimate there are between 40 and 50 – we just got two new ones in the past month – although there could be many others living underground who haven’t come forward in any way.
How is it different from when you were a resister?
I was a Vietnam War deserter, and my coming to Canada was a lot easier in terms of crossing the border. Refugee claims are extremely onerous now, whereas back then you could apply for permanent residency status at the border. Now you apply and they make you wait a year or more to hear back.
How do you help?
They often call before coming to Canada. Many times mothers call about their sons. We help them get in touch with the GI Rights Hotline, give them advice on crossing the border, help them meet with a lawyer, provide job help and housing and some funds when necessary, help them get situated once they’re here.
Do you show them around?
I try to give them a tour of the city, walk them around Queen West, Kensington Market, Chinatown, the Eaton Centre. If they’re into sports, show them Skydome. They want to know what entertainment there is, what the clubs are like, what the girls are like.