Toronto Anti-Draft Programme (1969)

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What follows was transcribed from a newspaper article in Parade Magazine dated February 9, 1969. The article refers to Noami Wall, Jimmy Wilson and John Phillips. Noami Wall was the TADP employment person and both Jimmy Wilson and John Phillips had businesses on Baldwin Street.


American Exiles in Canada: A report on 12,000 draft dodgers

by George Michaelson

Toronto. Gregory Spears is a soft-spoken, sturdy young man of 23 who, until a year ago, was well on his way to become a pillar of his Springfield, Ohio, community. He had graduated from Ohio State with a B.A. in physical education, came from a family of reputable Republicans, and had just married a lovely blonde nurse.

Then came the familiar call from the local draft board. Just two years of his time was all they wanted. Gregory told them he was a pacifist and that he couldn’t go. Sorry, you’ll have to go anyhow, said the board.

So, he went…to Canada- like an estimated 12,000 other draft-age Americans. In so doing, he ignored the advice of his parents, the command of his local draft board, then the warrant for his arrest, and finally the opprobrium of his countrymen who henceforth will know him as a “draft dodger.”

Why? Why have Gregory Spears and the others made this choice? What is it like to be in exile? Do they wish they could choose again? To answer these and other questions, Parade went to Canada and interviewed dozens of draft dodgers, their wives and their Canadian hosts.

Pot is for cooking

Some of the findings are surprising. While there are Marxists, revolutionaries and hippies who have caught the public eye by demonstrating and printing anti-American literature, most of the young men who skipped across the border are neither furry-faced nor anti-American. For them, “pot” is still something you cook in; and the name “Marx” brings to mind Groucho, not Karl.

They are generally from white, middle-class backgrounds and have spent a few years in college. They oppose the war in Vietnam, but perhaps even more, they oppose all war.

They choose exile. But why in Canada? For one, our neighbor to the north has traditionally been a haven for draft dodgers- from the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, the two World Wars and the Korean War. For another, one can get there by land and need not have a passport to cross the border.

Finally, and most importantly, Canadian law does not provide for extradition of American draft dodgers. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police does cooperate with the FBI by releasing the names and addresses of those sought on fugitive warrants. But apart from this, the draft dodgers are treated like other immigrants, and judged on the basis of their potential contribution as Canadian citizens. Hence, most have no trouble obtaining “landed immigrant” status which entitles them to all the privileges of Canadian citizenship, except a passport and a vote, and does not require renunciation of American citizenship.

U.S. government officials have been displeased by this particular manifestation of Canada’s good neighbor policy-especially because our northern neighbor is protected by America’s swift sword. Thus, it was not surprise when, last August, Col. Frank Kossa, Assistant Director of the U.S. Selective Service, told a convention of Canadian Army, Nave and Air Force Veterans that Canada’s Parliament should pass legislation making it illegal for persons eligible for the U.S. draft to enter Canada.

Not an endorsement

That his suggestion was not taken up should not be interpreted as a Canadian endorsement for draft dodgers. Recent polls conducted by the Canadian Institute of Public Opinion indicate that 47 percent of the adult population does not sympathize with the draft dodgers and 51 percent do not think they should be accepted as immigrants.

However, many Canadians do support the fugitives. Some have even gone so far as to provide them with a temporary home, assistance in finding jobs, and small loans. States Rev. Ian MacKenzie of Toronto: “We’re happy to do what we can for them. We had several stay at our home until they got settled. I found them well educated, idealistic and energetic. Just the sort of immigrants we need.”

Yet, most aid and comfort for these young men comes from Americans, particularly other draft dodgers who have already “landed” in Canada (the main centers are Vancouver, Montreal, and Toronto). There are now 26 anti-draft groups throughout Canada, largely staffed by American exiles, and often open seven days a week to receive and help newcomers.

The largest and most successful is the Toronto Anti-Draft Programme (TADP). It has been in existence for three years, has eight staff members-four of who are Americans working for $50 a week-and is supported by donations from Canadians and Americans and the sale of its $2 Manual for Draft-Age Immigrants to Canada (25,000 published and sold).

TADP claims to be in contact with 2200 draft counselors in the U.S. and to receive 100 letters and 17 visitors a day. Its main function is to help draft dodgers-whom they call “draft resisters”- obtain landed immigrant status and, as one staffer put it, “To discover that Canada is a nice place to live in – not just a wilderness of Eskimos and polar bears.”

To help the new exiles support themselves, TADP’s Naomi Wall of Philadelphia, Pa., runs a makeshift employment agency. Explains Mrs. Wall: “I’ve been working about a year and have seen about 2000 guys. I started by calling friends and now I have a network of supporters who provide me with almost every type of job. Now and then I get a hate letter or phone call but for the most part people have been very helpful in getting these boys their first Canadian jobs.”

Once the exile gets a job and a place to live, his exhausted body begins to rest. But his mind awakens. He begins, as if for the first time, to recognize the gravity of his decision. He can’t go home again. The Canadian people, restaurants, skyscrapers and freeways remind him of the U.S., but it is not the U.S. and he can’t go home again. He begins to feel alone.

“When we first got here,” recalls 23-year-old John Phillips, who went to Canada a year and a half ago with his wife, “we didn’t want to go anywhere or see anybody. We were happy to escape that horrible hassle with my draft board and we felt free in that way, but we also felt very alone. It was weeks before we came out of our shell and began looking for friends.”

One doesn’t have to look far to find other Americans who have been similarly dumped by circumstances and conviction. Quick friendships are formed, and cemented by long evenings of talking and partying, and sharing the inevitable belief that only they- the draft dodger community- can really understand and appreciate each other.

They understand each other’s complaints: Imagine, I’m a college grad and I’m washing dishes.” And fears: “Maybe, I can’t make it here either. Sure, the Canadians aren’t crackpots, and they really don’t mind if everyone does his own thing. But, maybe I can’t find my thing here either.” And self-judgments: “Hell, I’m no coward. It would have been a lot easier going to Vietnam for a year than coming up here for the rest of my life.”

Sense of exile

The first year in exile is the toughest. It’s a year of grubby jobs, grubby rooms, and grubby thoughts; a year when the draft dodger huddle together to protect themselves from the long and cold Canadian winter.

And they listen to the voices of America: the American news programs that are carried on Canadian TV; American magazines that are sold on Canadian newsstands; and American visitors with fresh words on Vietnam, Nixon and the black revolution.

They find that they have left the American soil but not the American dream. “They keep with them this very American sense of super-highway progress and straight-faced morality, and they try to impose it upon Canada,” notes John Pocock, a Canadian who has housed and helped scores of draft dodgers. “When they find that Canada isn’t paradise either, they are deeply disappointed.”

But, paradise or not, they adjust. “By the time you’ve been here a year or so,” says Ed Ross, 24, of Lodi, Calif., who came to Canada with his wife two years ago on New Year’s Eve, “you begin to take a fatalistic attitude- it’s just one of those things that happens. You begin to make good Canadian friends and pick up where you left off in the States. I’m planning on going back to school and study philosophy.”

Some exiles even find a happiness that had eluded them in the many months spent hiding from their local draft boards. Says Gregory Spears: “We never imagined we’d be living so well up here. My wife works as a nurse and I’m a recreation director. We earn about $15,000 a year and have all of the comforts we need. We’re just very happy. I never thought I’d be in this position, but I’m looking forward to becoming a Canadian.”

After five years, Spears and thousands like him can, and probably will, become Canadians. But unlike other Canadian citizens they will not be able to visit the United States. Parents and friends will have to visit them in Canada.

But the visitors will not bring with them the streets and the ballparks and the cafes that these boys left behind, and the boys know it and they try not to think about it. Yet, some of them can’t help thinking about it and the temptation to go home overcomes them. They sneak back in a car, and tell the border guard, “Yes, I’m a Canadian.” And sometimes they’re caught (maximum penalty: five years in jail, or $10,000, or both); and sometimes they even give themselves up, because they want to change American from within, or because they can’t make it in Canada.

Most of the boys, however, accept exile. They do not expect this generation of Americans to grant them political amnesty, nor do they expect to be regarded as anything other than cowards. They make no apologies. Sometime in the Future, they, when the Vietnam War has slipped into history, they will be forgotten and perhaps even forgiven. But right now, that Future seems as far away as forever.”

Accompanying photos by Richard Harrington:

  • A photo of Gregory Spears and his wife, seated. Caption: “Draft dodger Gregory Spears and his blonde wife in their Canadian home. They are looking at press clippings from recent trial in which Spears claimed he had been fired from Toronto job because he is a draft evader. He was defended by the Canadian Civil Liberties Union, and won his case. The trial, well publicized in Toronto, emphasized the limbo in which American exiles find themselves.”
  • A photo of Naomi Wall and an unidentified draft dodger in her home. Caption: “Naomi Wall, formerly of Philadelphia, Pa., provides job assistance to a newly arrived draft evader in her Toronto home. Mrs. Wall, a paid staffer with the Toronto Anti-Draft Programme, claims to have counseled some 2000 American exiles last year.”
  • A photo of the office of the Union of American Exiles. Caption: “Dee Knight (right) of Pendleton, Ore., who is on today’s Parade cover with Jim Wilson of Marlton, N.J., is shown in the Toronto office of the Union of American Exiles. The 100-member Union is a “self-help, social and educational group, where the guys can come to play cards or talk about their jobs or U.S. foreign policy.””
  • A photo of Jim Wilson in the Yellow Ford Truck. Caption: “Jim Wilson, former New York City social worker, peddles a flower to Canadian customers in his boutique, “The Yellow Ford Truck.” Parade found most dodgers, unlike Wilson, are not hippie-happy.”
  • A photo of Zita and Ed Ross, seated. Caption: “Zita and Ed Ross in their four-room apartment. Says Ross: “The only thing that would take me back to the U.S. are memories. Some people say we’ll be able to return in five years. I hope so.”

Use this link to return to the narrative, Immigration to Canada (1968-1972)

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