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Vigil for War Resisters in Canada

VFP and Courage to Resist called for vigils at the Canadian Consulates throughout the United States on Wednesday July 9th.  We have a consulate here in Raleigh at 3737 Glenwood Ave, Suite 100.  July 9th is the eve of Corey Glass' possible deportation back to the US. The purpose of the vigil is to thank Canada for the recent non-binding vote in their House of Commons to allow war resisters to immigrate and to halt all deportation proceedings and to encourage the Prime Minister to halt the deportation.

In Raleigh: The Incredible Disappearing Consulate

John Heuer and Chris Moore of Veterans For Peace went to the building and were told that the Canadian Consulate was not located at 3737 Glenwood.  They came out perplexed and saw Wally Myers standing on the median with his Thank You Canadians sign.  Wally was a bit confused, since just the day before he had visited the Consulate right there to give the secretary a heads-up on the thank you vigil for the following day.  Could it be that he scared them away?  Had they relocated rather then face the public congratulations?  Are they scared of secret retaliation by Bush? 

What was going on here? So armed with a letter of appreciation Wally, John and Chris decided to find out where the Consulate had gone so they could deliver the letter.  They walked right in and headed for the office, when a loud voice rang out, “Where do you think you’re going?”  We turned around to face 4 people, outnumbered.  Wally thought that they must be the welcoming committee; but no, one had a guard uniform, one really tall one had a badge, one looked like an on-looker, but one was the same secretary that Wally had spoken to the day before.  Then the tall one, with the badge, said that only one of us was allowed in the building, which housed mostly lawyers.  So Wally thinks that maybe that’s why these guys are so up-tight and paranoid.  Since Wally held the letter he got to continue the perilous mission to deliver the thank you letter.  John and Chris retreated to safety; after all it was a den of lawyers.  Left by himself, Wally relied on his military training and headed for the target, the Consulate door.  But off to the side and closing in fast was the secretary.  Wally was thinking, “She is going to have a hard time denying the existence of the Consulate”.  She didn’t.  She accepted the letter and assured him that she would make sure they got it.  But the adrenaline was still pumping through Wally’s veins so he turned and headed straight for the tall guy with the badge.  Wally pulled out his weapon, i.e. a mechanical pencil and paper and fired his only question.  A question that no bureaucrat wants to hear, “What’s your name?”  A deep silence filled the lobby as the man weighed his options, and weighed his options, and weighed his options some more.  It took about 6 seconds before the guy gave up his name.  There must be some underlying fear there; but it probably came from that lawyer environment than from our Veteran For Peace.

Do you think the secretary delivered the letter?  Well Wally sent a copy by US Postal Service just in case.  Oh, he did not include the tall guy’s name.

And From the Rest of the Country by Gerry Condon

Well, we had a great day overall!  Thanks to the united efforts of many folks, we succeeded in mounting actions at the Canadian Embassy and Consulates in 14 U.S. cities!  The reports from the various cities are still trickling in.  There were reportedly 60 people at the vigil in New York, 50 in San Francisco, “50 some” in Chicago, and respectable showings elsewhere.  There was significant media coverage of these vigils in both the U.S. and Canada.  Veterans For Peace president Elliott Adams was interviewed on Canadian Broadcasting Corp. television this morning and CBC covered the vigil in Washington too.  Associated Press showed up at several rallies.  We had local TV and radio coverage here in Seattle, along with AP and Free Speech Radio News.  And the beat goes on. 

 

Thanks to the collaboration of Courage to Resist, Veterans For Peace and Project Safe Haven, these were easily the largest nationally coordinated actions in the U.S. on behalf of our war resisters in Canada.

 

And we gained another victory today!  Corey Glass will not be deported anytime soon.  A Federal Court in Canada granted him a stay of his deportation, at least for several months while his lawyers are given a chance to appeal earlier negative rulings. 

 

This is related to the legal victory of Joshua Key on the 4th of July.  According to the Federal Court, the regular abuse of Iraq civilians at the hands of the U.S. military are systematic violations of the Geneva Conventions, and should be a basis for granting refugee status.  The mobilizations being coordinated between Canada and the U.S. are definitely creating positive momentum.  And time seems to be on our side.

 

But now we are faced with another emergency!  The police in Nelson, British Columbia are at it again, along with the Canada Border Services Agency.  Yesterday, while all eyes were on Corey Glass, they arrested another U.S. war resister, Robin Long, for supposed violations immigration law.  They threatened to deport Long immediately, but Canadian Immigration, under legal and political pressure, have given Long’s lawyer until Monday to file for a stay of deportation.   Neither Robin Long nor his lawyer had been informed of plans to deport him, and thus he was denied his legal right to appeal.

 

So vigilance and political pressure remains important.  To counteract their apparent eagerness to hand a war resister over as a prize to George Bush, the minority Conservative government needs to know that people in the U.S. and Canada are still paying attention. 

 

Tomorrow is a National Day of Action in Canada.  There will be rallies in several Canadian cities, including Vancouver, from where Robin Long could be deported as early as Tuesday.  And people will continue to barrage the government with phone calls and emails.

 

We in the U.S. can continue to generate phone calls and emails to Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his Immigration Minister Diane Finley (See alert and contact information from the War Resisters Support Campaign, below).

 

And those of us who did not actually send delegations in to meet with the Canadian Consuls should consider doing so by next Monday or Tuesday (and later too).  The more Consulates that have to report to their government, the better.   Consider broad-based delegations. 

 

The letter sent by Canadian religious leaders might serve as a good model for religious leaders in the U.S. (See also below.)

 

Tomorrow morning I will be interviewed on CBC Radio in Vancouver for 15 minutes.  They are most interested to know what kind of punishment awaits Robin Long if he is handed over to the U.S. Army.  I will tell them that those AWOL resisters who are the most vocal, including those who go to Canada, are most likely to face persecution – harassment, court martial, imprisonment and less-than-honorable discharges.  A bad discharge can be a life sentence of job discrimination, and keep someone from having access to healthcare, which means something to Canadians. 

 

The question of what amounts to “persecution” will be the next legal and political battleground for Joshua Key, Corey Glass, Robin Long and nearly 200 U.S. war resisters in Canada.  At least, until the government decides to follow the will of the Canadian people and Parliament... 

 

By the way, there will probably be a federal election in Canada in the fall.  The Liberal Party, who now are solidly on the record supporting war resisters, could form the next government.