THE MONTREAL COUNCIL TO AID WAR RESISTERS&
MY YEARS, (1972-1975) AS THE DIRECTOR OF THE MONTREAL COUNCIL TO AID WAR RESISTERS AND THE AMERICAN REFUGEE SERVICE
GARY W. DAVIS
War Is Always, And Only...A Last Resort.
The Montreal Council To Aid War Resisters, in existence for approximately nine years, was simply a product of its times...born of necessity. American incentive, ingenuity and imagination at work. It was formed sometime in 1967, maybe even early 1968, it depends on who you ask. (As with most successful things in life there is always more than one who is willing to take credit for it.) Regardless of its exact origins, it was a most effective operation and in many ways laid the ground work for a number of others to follow. Still, throughout its beginnings it somehow always managed to maintain a rather ad-hoc air about it. Its casualness was, at times, its own worst enemy. Those who made up The Council at that time pretty much ran it by its shirttail, infusing energies and efforts into it when issues dictated or when tempers flared as a result of some new revelation about the U.S. Government's involvement in Vietnam.
In late 1970 talks began of a merger between The Council and another Montreal based war resistance organization that was having similar identity problems, The American Deserters Committee. Both groups were loosely organized and riddled with in-house rivalries but made up of sincere, and for the most part, well-intentioned individuals. Both groups were dedicated to aiding fellow Americans who came to Canada to avoid prosecution in the United States for violation of laws related to the war in Viet Nam, however both groups were dedicated to extremely differing degrees. And though both groups were diligent in their duties and undeniably sincere in their intent, their effectiveness and their credibility in general were highly suspect at times due to their apparent distrust of one another and their constant "warring" with other aid groups that had sprung up in Montreal and elsewhere. And, as the song said, "the times they were a changin'...". Even the names themselves of the two groups were determined to be detrimental to the respective groups' actual intent. After all, the words, "war resister" and "deserter", pretty much freely permitted certain preconceived notions to be put into play.
With the merger of the two groups in late 1971, The American Refugee Service was born. Its intent was evident and obvious, its credibility was almost immediate. Even the name of the ARS was chosen to more reflect the scope of the newly formed organization. It was a move that flourished in every regard. Suddenly we had attained a degree of respectability until then unknown. Politicians acknowledged us, other "movement" factions suddenly supported us and the press was pleased as punch, especially the television reporters. If they so chose, no longer would they have to spoil everyone's dinner hour by saying those dirty words, "draft-dodger" and "deserter". We could now all be labeled "expatriates", "refugees", those driven from their homeland in protest of their government's role in the destruction of civilized man.
As was its intent, it all looked good on paper. For the most part however, it was all bullshit, and just about everybody on every side knew it. Nothing had actually changed with the merger of the two groups. A single office housed them both and a single voice was heard on their behalf but The Council was still The Council, The ADC was still the ADC, or what was left of it, and The ARS was the face we all wore for the rest of the world. It was simply a case of the radical world meeting the world of public relations. It was inevitable. Still, the union of The Council and The ADC gave both groups something they could never have attained individually and The American Refugee Service grew to become one of the largest, most effective and productive anti-war organizations in North America and quite possibly in the free world.
MY REASON FOR DOING THISWhile surfing the internet one night a dozen or so years ago, I happened upon a somewhat sparsely filled webpage that was dedicated to those that had resisted the war in Vietnam, namely, by resisting or evading the draft, or by deserting the U.S. military. In his effort to seemingly be as thorough as he could be with what little, (I was soon to discover) he had to work with, the author of the page, whose name, I'm sorry to say I don't believe I ever got, made a number of mentions of several war resistance groups based in the United States at that time such as, The American Friends Service Committee, The War Resistance League and Vietnam Veterans Against The War. All, fine and diligent organizations, and all of which I worked in conjunction with at one time or another back then. However, he made only the slightest mention whatsoever of any of the groups and organizations outside of the United States, specifically in Canada, that aided literally thousands upon thousands, by far, the largest number of American draft resisters and deserters during the Vietnam War era. ...Continued
INTRODUCTIONIn April of 1971 I refused induction into the armed forces of the United States and took up residency in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. I was nineteen years old. Why? I had been involved to some extent in the anti-war movement in my hometown of Virginia Beach, Virginia, however I was not even a "member" muchless a "leader" of any anti-war group or organization....Continued
MONTREALI will always remember, as anybody would, the day I got off of a Trailways Bus and stepped foot on Canadian soil for the first time in my life. There was a constant drizzle and the sky was gray. I could only hope that this wasn't an omen. I remember I took a moment to just take it all in and then I made my way to 3625 Aylmer Street in the McGill University "Ghetto" district. That was the address of The Yellow Door. (Don't ask me how I can remember that...)...Continued
A NEW DIRECTOR AND A NEW DIRECTIONRichard Gooding was from Chicago. His family was of the upper crust, his father a VP at Gulf Oil. He had been "disowned" by them as a result of his stance on the war and his decision to resist it. (This was a very common repercussion for many resisters. Sadly it only served to worsen an already worse enough situation.)...Continued
THE AMERICAN REFUGEE SERVICEUntil 1971 there were two major war resistance organizations in Montreal, The Montreal Council To Aid War Resisters and The American Deserters Committee. The Council was a pretty much low keyed outfit, it strived to maintain such a presence. It was an all around, "full service" organization, providing counseling and assisting with housing and employment for both draft resisters and deserters. The ADC on the other hand was a much more hard lined, radical outfit that specifically worked with deserters only....Continued
THE PROCESS (FOR THOSE WHO NEED TO KNOW)Obtaining Landed Immigrant Status was everyone's goal who sought refuge in Canada. Getting "Landed" was a simple process in most regards, it was based upon a point system. You were given points for different factors. For instance, you were given five points for speaking English, five points for speaking French. One point for every year of completed schooling, a varying number of points for your occupation or trade etc. The true beauty of the system however was that unlike almost every other country on earth which accepted applications for immigrant status only from applicants who were still in their home country, Canada permitted potential immigrants to apply for this status while already being in Canada. And should you be rejected on your initial application, you could appeal the process which could take years. But, and this is without a doubt perhaps the biggest "but" of all time, an applicant could remain and live in Canada while awaiting their appeal hearing....Continued
SOME OF THE CAST AND CREWIn the course of putting this piece together, it struck me that I've been mentioning the names of people, some of which, I haven't thought about in many, many years....Continued
A MAGIC AND A "NOT" SO MAGIC MOMENT OR TWOMike Wallace and 60 Minutes came to town one Thanksgiving, they claimed they came looking for the truth. They left it, the truth, that is, more blurred than ever. Wallace and his producer, Barry Lando, a Canadian, by the way, (another one of those,"don't ask me how I remember that?."), came to The Council in search of resisters to interview because of the possibility of an amnesty being granted by the US Government. They said they wanted to find resisters who were going to accept an Amnesty. We told them we knew of none. It was the God's honest truth. We knew of no resisters who had legitimate plans of accepting an amnesty and returning to the United States. Not the "limited" amnesty that was being discussd at that time. Wallace found this unacceptable and also found himself without a story....Continued
ALL GOOD THINGS MUST ENDThe amnesty program that Gerald Ford offered American war resisters in 1974 was about as much an "amnesty" as Gerald Ford was a president. A complete farce. It's completely unacceptable conditions began with the fact that it only pertained to draft resisters, it excluded deserters entirely. (A ploy designed with deliberate intent no doubt in a naive attempt to divide certain factions within our ranks.) Nonetheless, we at the aid centers across Canada were deluged with souls searching for answers to their questions about it....Continued
MY PERSONAL AMNESTYThe entire time the Vietnam War went on numbers varied greatly as to exactly how many people were actually draft resisters. For that matter, they still vary depending upon who you ask. Well, regardless of the fact that we may never know really how many people were actually certifiable draft resisters, there was one point where we did actually know the number of persons who were under indictment in the United States for failing to comply with an induction notice....Continued
MY GRATITUDEThank you to those of you who visit this site. I sincerely hope you found it useful and informative. If you've visited this site more than once and noticed slight differences in certain parts of the text since your last visit, it is because I am quite often revising things as I recall more about them, or I discover a last name or a particular date while rummaging through that old beaten up cardboard box that lies buried in my office closet....Continued
Gary W. Davis
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