Healing the wounds of war, 1969-1980

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Even before the Vietnam War ended, American anti-war groups began to call for amnesty for Vietnam Era draft dodgers and deserters. The New Left’s resistance to the war in Vietnam had directly challenged the power of the corporations and their governments to control the destiny of the United States. Resistance to the Vietnam War temporarily halted the expansion of the American military empire. It also created a fissure in American society that became more manifest after the turn of the century. The corporations and their allies reacted to the New Left’s challenge by laying the groundwork for a "neo-liberal" take-over of US State and Federal Governments that was not fully accomplished until the mid-1990s. Meanwhile moderates and the Left sought to heal the wounds of the War by bringing “the boys home”. This meant ending the war so the soldiers could return home and then granting amnesty to those who had become outlaws and exiles so they too could return home.

In September 1973 Stan Pietlock and Jack Calhoun of AMEX Magazine could not agree over the issue of whether or not to seek an amnesty for draft dodgers and deserters. Stan Pietlock published “The Real Majority Up Here” to explain why he opposed focusing on amnesty. He later became a Canadian citizen. Jack Calhoun took the other side and later left Toronto to work for a US Presidential amnesty for deserters and draft dodgers. In December 1973 all of the Canadian immigrant aid groups met in Vancouver, B.C. and agreed to support the movement for unconditional amnesty. AMEX sponsored a rally at the University of Toronto demanding a “Universal, Unconditional Amnesty” and that the US Government respect the Cease-fire Agreement of January 1973 with Vietnam.

The exiles took great glee in the misfortunes visited on US President Richard Nixon as a result of the burglary of the Watergate Hotel by the Committee to Re-elect the President. Most of the exile community followed developments in the Watergate investigation closely. They felt that Nixon had prolonged the War unnecessarily for four years after having promised to end it during his reelection campaign in November 1968. It was no surprise that in the summer of 1974 AMEX Magazine sponsored an Impeachment Victory Ball following Nixon’s resignation from the office of President of the United States. Nixon’s resignation marked the end of the Vietnam War.

In September 1974 US President Gerald Ford pardoned former President Nixon and announced his “clemency program” for US draft dodgers and deserters. The International Conference of Exiled American War Resisters called for a boycott of the program because it was nether “unconditional” nor “universal”. Despite widespread publicity and elaborate and direct appeals by the US Government to individual draft dodgers, the exile community generally ignored the clemency program. Larry Langer, a friend of Ragnarokr and a leatherworker of some renown, and Kent Lawrence (of the Cosmic Egg) were two of the few men from Toronto to take advantage of the clemency program. In October the Toronto American Exiles Association was formed and, with AMEX Magazine, held an anti-clemency protest at the US Consulate. The group called for an unconditional amnesty instead. The vigils continued at the Consulate until April of 1975.

In January 1975 the US Justice Department reviewed all outstanding arrest warrants for draft offenses and issued a revised list of 4,400 draft resisters who were still wanted. For a variety of reasons, the charges against thousands of men were dropped. Philip Mullins and Steve Spring, both from Pensacola, Florida were still on the list. The Toronto Anti-Draft Program (TADP) and the US American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) Project on Amnesty encouraged draft dodgers to seek judicial review of the charges against them. Philip obtained a copy of his file from his draft board and submitted it to the ACLU for review. However the ACLU or the TADP lost the file and nothing came of the review. The US Attorney is Pensacola wrote several letters explaining that he would not drop the charges against Philip but detailed the requirements for President Ford's clemency program. He urged Philip to take advantage of the President’s clemency program.

In April 1975 the North Vietnamese seized the city of Saigon. The following month, AMEX Magazine and the Toronto American Exile Association sponsored a dance to celebrate the liberation of South Vietnam from foreign troops. In December 1975 the Toronto Anti-Draft Program closed after operating for eight years. The American Civil Liberties Union Amnesty Program also closed and the National Council of Churches ended its Emergency Ministries program. However it is not until after US President Jimmy Carter was elected in 1976 that a full pardon was granted to the remaining draft dodgers and a partial pardon offered to the deserters. Only then did Amex magazine, the last remaining exile organization, stop publishing.

The American expatriates become new Canadians

When they first left the United States for Canada, most exiles gave little thought as to their long-term plans in Canada. Their focus was the War in Vietnam and their role in it. The majority of the exiles quickly returned to the United States. However, those who remained in Canada began a slow process of assimilation into Canadian life and culture. Eventually the remaining exiles began to think of themselves less often as American expatriates and more often as new Canadians. Between 1972 and 1977 few publicly expressed an interest in returning to the United States permanently although there was a constant traffic of exiles crossing the border, mostly to visit friends and family.

In 1969 someone from the American Friends Service Committee expressed an interest in a mass return of draft dodgers to the US to Philip and he, because he was a likely participant, agreed to poll draft-dodgers in Toronto to see if they were interested. After a long correspondence with the Florida State Selective Service Board and the US Attorney in Pensacola, Philip knew that the US Government would insist on jail time should he and the other draft-dodgers return to the US. He also found absolutely no interest on the part of the exile community in a mass return to the US. For several months officers of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) had been visiting him at the request of the US Federal Bureau of Investigation. Philip told them he had not yet decided whether or not he intended to return to the US. In June he finally told the RCMP officers that he too had decided to stay permanently in Canada.

Unlike many exiles, Philip had the support of his parents and his grandparents. His father, a military veteran, had been stationed on the Island of Guam and had on several occasions visited wounded US Marines at the Naval Hospital there. He discouraged his sons involvement in the war. After retiring from the US Coast Guard, he tried to immigrate to New Zealand with his wife and four children. George and Hazel Mullins, both natives of Mississippi, were ambivalent about their son’s participation in the “so-called Civil Rights movement” but when Philip decided to go to Canada, he had the support and encouragement of his parents.

Since Philip could not legally enter the US between 1968 and 1977, his parents came to visit him. In August 1969 Philip’s parents, Madelyn Averitte and his brothers George and Jeff all came to Toronto for a weeklong visit. Mary Rauton joined the Mullins family for a camping trip to Arrowhead Provincial Park, north of Huntsville. Philip’s parents were impressed with Ontario and his father considered taking a job at a Baptist camp, Camp Keswick, near the town of Barrie, north of Toronto. Philip’s parent and his younger brother Jeff continued to visit annually for the next four years. Jeff usually stayed behind after his parents had returned to Louisiana to help with construction at the leather shop’s rural settlement at Frostpocket. Philip’s two brothers, George and Jeff, both moved to Toronto to work in the leather shop and both still have vacation homes at Frostpocket.

After a few years the divisions caused by the War began to heal and the parents of many exiles accepted the fact their sons were not going to return to the US. Visits by siblings were an important part of the healing process. A younger brother of both Randy and Steve visited Ragnarokr during the Christmas holidays in 1970 to spend time with older siblings whom they had not seen for years. Gary Spring and Tim Rauton celebrated Christmas with a large crowd of the Baldwin Street community at the leather shop. After dinner Gary entertained the adults with a jive version of the Christmas story. In December 1973 Steve Spring’s sister Caroline came for a similar visit and Tim Rauton became the bridge that eventually reconciled Randy with his father in Atlanta. In October 1972 two other siblings of Randy, the twins Billy and Mary, spent a month visiting their mother and their older brother in Ontario.

In 1974 a large number of the Baldwin Street community had met the five-year residence requirement to become Canadian citizens. The Ford Clemency Program offered some of them an avenue to return to the US if they wished but very few took advantage of the program. Many were offended by the terms the President offered. Instead they applied for Canadian citizenship. In May 1974 Philip and Randy applied for Canadian citizenship and in December they both received the little laminated card that is proof that they are Canadian citizens.

The response of the US government was to declare that many of these new Canadians had renounced their US citizenship when they became Canadians. The information disseminated by the US Consulates and the US Passport Office was that the US did not recognize dual citizenship and that the act of being naturalized in a foreign country was catamount to renouncing US citizenship. As a result many exiles received a Uniform Loss of Nationality Letter from the US Department of State. The letter stated that the recipient had voluntarily relinquished his US citizenship before an officer of the US Consulate. Philip received the letter in August 1976. If the US Consulate did not receive a response within a few months after the date on the letter, the US Passport Office assumed that the charge was valid and that the individual had renounced his US citizenship. These letters were sent to the address of record of the individual. Many men never received the letter and others failed to read the fine print on the bottom margin of the letter. These individuals lost their US citizenship. (US law was changed in 1980 to allow dual citizenship.)

Philip, who was in South River at the time, responded to the letter and in October 1976 in an interview with the US Consul in Toronto, denied having renounced US citizenship. He appealed the Government’s decision. In March 1977 the US Consul in Toronto sent him two questionnaires in an attempt to determine whether or not he intended to relinquish US citizenship when he took Canadian citizenship. In return, he submitted a Memorandum of Law prepared for David Zimmerman by the American Civil Liberties Union arguing against the Government’s contention.

Every year Philip visited the US Consul to check on the status of his case. In the meantime a lawsuit was making its way through the US court system. Eventually the US State Department lost the suit and, four years after Philip received the Loss of Nationality Letter, the Consulate received authorization to issue a US Passport to him. In the meantime in January 1977 US President Jimmy Carter issued a Proclamation of Pardon that granted unconditional amnesty to all draft dodgers not wanted for other offenses. After January 1977 and before he was issued a US Passport in 1980 Philip could enter the US without fear of arrest but had to post a bond at the border to assure that he would not remain in the US permanently.

A large number of American exiles never returned to the US to live. About half of the American exiles who left the US in the late 1960s and early 1970s were still living in Canada in 1996 (Hagan, 186). Those who returned to the US often saw the move as temporary and only for the purposes of earning a living. By and large the feeling among the exiles seems to be that, while their decision to immigrate to Canada was forced upon them, the decision was fortuitous. In 1996 75% of the exiles had taken Canadian citizenship. About half of them retained their US citizenship and were dual nationals (Hagan, 205) but they had given their hearts to their adopted country: Canada.

The narrative continues at The Shop's Business: Decline of the wholesale trade, 1972-1978

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