For the first time in my life, I rushed home from work, to turn on... CPAC. Promptly at 3:00 PM, the House of Commons voted on the motion to allow American war resisters to stay in Canada. Although we knew going in that we had majority support for the motion, it ain't over 'til it's over. We simply needed more votes than the bad guys, and the NDP and Bloc were onside, and so were the Liberals (albeit late to the party). But in these votes, what it can come down to is how many MPs actually show up. Because this can be crucial, I'm sure both sides had instructions to show up at all costs. So it was a nail-biter all the way through. The result:
It was thrilling, and I wish I'd been able to go to Ottawa with my friends to be able to celebrate. Ten of the war resisters were present, and if it was emotional for me watching on tv, I can imagine the scene in the gallery.
What does this mean? It's now up to Harper to acknowledge the will of the majority, and implement the motion. I don't know enough about the workings of our government and its systems to be able to analyze the situation. Historically, there have been cases in which the Prime Minister has ignored a motion. But from what I hear, it would be foolish for him to do so. Besides the majority vote in the motion, this has majority support among the Canadian population. And Harper has had a lot of bad publicity of late, and he has a minority government. I wonder if ignoring or defying the motion would be the beginning of the end for him.
I do wonder if he can drag his feet on the implementation; time is crucial as Corey Glass was scheduled to be deported in another week or so. I don't know if that can happen now; it would certainly be a travesty of justice. Given today's events, it would also be incredibly petty of the government to allow it, but then that is the type of man Harper is.
Many Canadians are unaware that the Canadian government was not in favour of allowing Vietnam resisters to stay in Canada. It was not until one of them was threatened with deportation that outraged Canadians rallied and forced the government to change its tune. Today, history is repeating itself in a very positive way.
Thanks to everyone who made phone calls and wrote email to Stephane Dion to get the Liberals onside, and to Harper and Diane Finley (immigration). As with voting in elections, every single person can make a difference.
Thanks to all of those involved in the War Resisters Support Campaign. These people are amazing, and I am honoured to call a lot of them my friends.
Thanks most of all to the courageous Americans who have sacrificed and risked much to come to Canada, and especially those who are speaking out and putting a public face on the issue. I feel fortunate to have met many of them in person, and hope that today's events mean their worries are over, and that they can get on with their lives.
It's so ironic that our immigration system requires people to have money, education, and perhaps business or entrepreneurial skills so that they will hopefully add something (perhaps new jobs) to this country. Yet the Conservative government has tried to prevent war resisters from staying. The resisters are people who have the intelligence and the integrity to protest what they have seen and felt to be morally wrong; they have already proven that they belong, by not only showing commitment to Canada's traditional role as peacekeeper, but by forcing our government to renew that role. They are forcing us to redefine Canada as a better place. We owe them a debt of gratitude.