On the Edge of a Fall


Ed Note: Nicole Guiniling is the wife of one of the group of Toronto Resisters known as the 49ers. The groups name is a reference to the 49th Parallel that separates Canada from the US. Our mutual friend Nick Velvet shared this post from Nicole's blog with me. I was knocked out. So, I asked Nicole if we could repost it here on VetSpeak, as part of our Fall focus on the resisters, and the recently launched Amnesty For Resisters 2.0 Campaign. I also asked if she would consider establishing an "through the eyes of" By-line regarding the 49ers and their struggles. To all of ours' benefit, she has agreed. WH  

Kim Rivera's De facto Deportation Marks a Changing of the Season for War resisters in Canada

September 21st was the last day 
of Summer. September 20th marked the last day in Canada for Kimberly Rivera and her family.

I had to bite my lip and read Laura K’s account of the last few days Kim had in Canadait’ll break your heart, and that’s why you need to read it.

There is an anger in me. And a sadness. And it becomes difficult to write when you don’t know what to say.

There is something so vulgar and contemptuous, even in the drudgery of paperwork, coming from the current actions of the Conservative Government. This “request to leave” comes as the beginning of a new push by Harper and his Immigration Minister, Jason Kenney*.  Of course, War Resisters aren’t the only community being affected. I mean, what is this steamrolling garbage about Jason Kenney vilifying over 3000 new Canadians as “fraudsters?  

I guess terms like “bogus refugees” aren’t just being used on U.S. war resisters, of whom 90,000 of their compatriots came to Canada during the Vietnam war (draft dodgers and deserters alike, welcomed with open arms).(*Writer’s note: Since writing this article a week ago, Kenney has made headlines twice more: first, for his pink-wash spam sent to the LGBT community about the Conservatives’ support of gay refugees [serious attention was given to refugees who have fled Iran], and then with his very vocal enthusiasm for the anti-choice Motion-312 [it was defeated--thank goodness we're not losing everything this country has fought for over the last 40 years].

Energy was very high before word came down that Kim’s appeal had been denied. When you’re confident that you’ve done all you can and still, the doors for compassion from above slam in your face… words stutter. Thoughts act like prey. They freeze, shrink back, play dead.  I’ve considered that my own thoughts have seasons–Spring and her riots of colour are followed by a mix of drought and harvest respectively, until the final days of retreat to protect what perennially remains, a warm and living core–this is all cyclical, but shit like the Conservatives are like climate change–messing up the natural order. The war resisters and their families may also, coincidentally, be entering their Autumn now.

It began on August 30, when Immigration formally asked Kim to leave Canada by September 20. From there, it was a campaign: an uphill battle, but one with a lot of hope. It was so obviously wrong, for so many reasons. It meant a productive whirlwind of harnessing a letter or phone call or petition signature from every Canadian who opposed the Conservative’s anti-resister agenda; and sending it to Ottawa. And that is a tree ripe with fruit: Canadians in the majority, whenever polled, have supported war resisters and their right to remain in Canada. And we saw that reflected in support for Kim from 20,000 people who wrote letters to Immigration Minister Kenney, through the Change.org web campaign; we saw it in thousands of petition signatures and phone calls to Kenney’s office that, at the peak on Sept 19th, averaged at 3 incoming calls per minute from across the country.

But as with other concepts of a majority, the Conservative party chooses to misinterpret the data. And so despite Canadians’ support of these brave men and women who turned their worlds upside down and left their homes at the behest of their consciences, every victory gained for U.S. war resisters in Canada has been fought for, legally and politically. When this started last month, that open stretch of track in front of me–in front of all of us–looked really promising. We’d won stays of deportation before–we could do it again. Kim hadn’t even received a decision on her H&C application, a request to receive special consideration on Humanitarian and Compassionate grounds (two of her children are Canadian citizens, after all…) As far as I know, this contradicts Immigration Canada’s own procedures.

We could spend a lot of time as progressives blaming ourselves. But there is a ferocity against the resisters this time around that I didn’t see in previous times. The landscape is changing. Online news sites have been completely astro-turfed by Conservative trollers on this issue. We’re over a decade into an era of U.S.-led war and occupation, and we’re debating the worthiness of a cause that was overwhelmingly acceptable in this country 40 years ago.U.S. online forums are even worse. I don’t think I’ve seen one more brutal than the posts on the ArmyTimes.com- understandably, read by the most gung-ho, confused FUBAR’s in the military… people who post things like “I’ve been on 6 deployments… it’s time for Kim to do her share!” Yea, buddy, if Kim hadn’t left, you totally wouldn’t have had your rights as a soldier and U.S. citizen violated.

I try not to be pessimistic, but I can’t help but think about it… When will it happen for us? When will my husband cross the border and be taken away in handcuffs–for refusing to kill any more people? For refusing to destroy himself?

This, and the closing of the Iran embassy last week gives me the chills… the feeling that the climate in Ottawa is getting colder faster than the rest of the country. I have confidence that the NDP could promise us a government in 2015, they have the support, but for the first time I have a very real fear that this will be far too late. The fact that their popularity could get them in with a minority government were there an election today, makes the risky and destructive moves by the Conservatives all the more frightening. 

The mental image I get is a man with a gun who’s starting to take hostages because he knows he’s surrounded. Likewise, it will be a mission of Harper and Kenney to kick out every war resister in Canada before they themselves are kicked out of office by a democratic vote…