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Orillians rally for U. S. war resisters


Ed Abbott has spent his entire adult life promoting peace.

On Thursday, Ed, now 91, and wife Vivien were among approximately 25 people who brought signs and their conviction to the Peace Garden in Orillia to show support for allowing American war resisters to stay in Canada.

"We feel that Canada should not join the U. S. in taking a punitive stance against these people," said Vivien Abbott.

The majority of Parliament felt the same way on June 3 when a non-binding motion was passed to halt deportation orders of conscientious objectors (war resisters) and give them the opportunity to apply to become permanent residents.

The minority Conservative government took no action on the motion before the house broke for the summer.

"We're here to state that the government of Canada needs to implement the will of the House of Commons," said Judy Gilbert, one of the organizers of the Orillia rally.

Originally planned to coincide with the day war resister Corey Glass was set to be deported (July 10), a ruling by the federal court on July 9 declared Glass could stay in Canada while his case goes through the courts for judicial review.

The rally went ahead to support other war resisters also facing deportation and to encourage the Harper government to abide by the motion passed in June.

"Most of these people feel very strongly about the issue, and that's why they're here," said Gilbert. "On a humanitarian level, we're here because it's the right thing to do."

Ed Abbott has some understanding of what drives war resisters to come to Canada when faced with taking part in actions they don't support.

"During our third year (of university), because it was conscription time, all the able-bodied men had to take officer training," he said. "I couldn't, for conscience's sake, join the military."

Instead, he applied to become a conscientious objector.

"It's important that people understand what these people have been facing in Iraq," said Vivien Abbott, noting her brother-in-law came to Canada during the Vietnam War to avoid the draft.

Last week, the Abbotts met with Simcoe North MP Bruce Stanton to talk about their concerns.

Stanton has also received two petitions, one from the Orillia area and one from Midland, urging the government to implement the June 3 motion.

Earlier this week, he also met with Glass and supporter Lee Zalofsky.

"The government has to thoughtfully look at this issue," said Stanton. "It's a fairly complex and multi-layered scenario."

While he said he empathizes with the war resisters, Stanton said the situation Canada is facing today is different than that of the Vietnam War, when individuals had no choice about joining the military. At that time, Canada welcomed so-called draft dodgers.

"There is a process there they can go through to become conscientious objectors," said Stanton.

He will present the Orillia and Midland petitions to the House of Commons when it resumes in the fall.

"I think it's a political issue that's worth spreading the news," said Vivien Abbott. "I think there are quite a number of us who don't feel it's worth sacrificing some principles for showing friendship to the Bush administration."

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