The Union of American Exiles, May 1969-December 1969

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Naomi Wall (an American expatriate from Philadelphia) was the employment counselor for the Toronto Anti-Draft Programme (TADP). She interviewed prospective immigrants in her home near the University of Toronto. In 1968 she interviewed about 2,000 men. She said she started “by calling friends and slowly developed a network of supporters who provide her with almost every type of job”, (Michaelson, Parade, February 9, 1969). Her work was intended to facilitate the immigration process rather than find permanent employment for the men. In the spring of 1968 a group of men that the TADP staff nicknamed “ the Southern Contingent” offered to help her employment service.

The so-called Southern Contingent arrived in Toronto separately but quickly found each other. The seven draft dodgers, all of them affiliated with the Southern Student Organizing Committee (SSOC) of Nashville, Tennessee, were all experienced in the Civil Rights and anti-war movements and wanted to continue the struggle from exile. They searched for a way to do this. Initially they organized themselves as a chapter-in-exile of the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) and the Southern Student Organizing Committee (SSOC). From their contacts with Naomi Wall, they realized that there was no American self-help organization in Toronto other than the TADP. The TADP had no further plans for the American exiles other than integration into the Canadian left with the expectation that the American expatriates would strengthen existing Canadian student, political and labor formations. The Southern Contingent decided to begin their work by organizing an information service to assist Naomi Wall find jobs for the new arrivals.

According to an article in the April or May, 1969 issue of “The American Exile in Canada” by Tom Kane, “In early April ’68 several phone calls went out to exiles in Toronto. The callers told us that there would be a meeting at First Unitarian Church (thanks to Patty Proctor) to try to organize work on problems confronting new immigrants. So, on April 4 we met. Out of that was supposed to come an employment service (American Resisters in Service for Employment-ARISE). However, as the meeting progressed, we got to realizing that there were a hell of a lot of other things to cover including the question of political relevance for the exile”. (Kane, AMEX, March 1969?).

For the next two months or so American draft dodgers in Toronto met almost weekly. Out of these meetings came the beginnings of a program and an organization for American exiles in Toronto. Almost despite themselves and by the tortured processes of non-directed growth, they created an institution known variously as the Union of New Canadians, the Union of American Exiles, American War Resisters Information Service for Employment, the Housing and Job Information Committees of the TADP, a social committee and a political study group known as Toronto SDS-SSOC in Exile.

The social committee continued an already-established tradition of Saturday softball games and picnics at High Park and organized informal social events that drew the American community together to talk and socialize. A program committee offered aid and advice on how to adjust to life in Canada and, in particular, Toronto every Wednesday night at the Newman Center at 89 St. George Street and in August the Union of American Exiles (UAE) organized the first of many demonstrations in front of the US Consulate on University Avenue in downtown Toronto. Towards the end of August the group, now formally called the Union of American Exiles, was offered an office, a kitchen and a telephone line at 44 St. George by the University of Toronto Student Mobilization Committee, a Canadian anti-war group. The UAE's two-page newssheet was given a cover. By 1969 it had evolved into AMEX magazine (The American Exile in Canada). AMEX became one of the most enduring of the many American exile organizations in Canada. Beginning in 1972 AMEX began to advocate an amnesty for American war resisters and gradually became a lobbying organization. It was largely responsible for the amnesty US President Carter issued to draft dodgers in January 1977. AMEX stopped publishing the newsletter in 1977.

For the next eighteen months, the UAE continued to host a “new arrivals night” every Thursday at its office at 44 St. George Street in Toronto. The UAE organized picketing of the Loblaws food store at Bloor and Bathurst Streets as part of the United Farm Worker’s California Grape boycott. By December a constitution had been written and voted on and an elected slate of officers installed. In February 1970 the Vietnam Mobilization Committee and a faction of the UAE called Red, White and Black co-sponsored a demonstration at the US Consulate in Toronto to protest the conviction of the Chicago Seven Conspirators by a federal court in Chicago.

The narrative continues at The Hall, April 1970-August 1973

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