An American anti-war activist, who was jailed overnight in Surrey, faces a hearing today that could ban her from Canada for two years.
Alison Bodine, 22, believes she was arrested by the Canada Border Services Agency because she was carrying publications opposing Canadian military actions in Afghanistan.
"[Canada's border guards] identified me as a political activist," she said yesterday. "I haven't done anything illegal. I've been a student at UBC for four years and crossed the border dozens of times."
Three weeks later, there’s this:
Two well-respected US peace activists, CODEPINK and Global Exchange cofounder Medea Benjamin and retired US Army Colonel and diplomat Ann Wright, were denied entry into Canada today (Wednesday, October 3). The two women were headed to Toronto to discuss peace and security issues at the invitation of the Toronto Stop the War Coalition. At the Buffalo-Niagara Falls Bridge they were detained, questioned and denied entry. They will hold a press conference on Thursday afternoon in front of the Canadian Embassy in Washington DC to ask the Canadian government to reverse its policy of barring peaceful protesters.
The women were questioned at Canadian customs about their participation in anti-war efforts and informed that they had an FBI file indicating they had been arrested in acts of non-violent civil disobedience.
That whole idea of ‘harmonizing our security’ is starting to sound a little more ominous now, isn’t it?
The exact grounds for Bodine’s arrest are still unclear. Her lawyer actually had to fight to get full disclosure of the charges and evidence against his client, but apart from references to her activities as an anti-war activist, there doesn't appear to be anything specific. More hearings are in the works (check here for updates).
In the case of the women from CodePink, there does appear to be a specific reason for their being turned back:
Benjamin said border agents zeroed in on her conviction for trespassing for trying to deliver an anti-war petition to the U.S. mission to the United Nations on International Women's Day.
She paid a $50 fine.
"It was that conviction that was the grounds for being held and kept out."
Wright, who resigned from a diplomatic career in 2003 in opposition to the Iraq war, said she has paid fines for several misdemeanours, including sitting in front of the White House and attending hearings on Capitol Hill.
"They're payable by fines. I've never spent a day in jail as punishment. Only hours in jail prior to getting a fine."
Officials are doing their very best to write this off as SOP:
An embassy official said Canada has been stopping Americans who've been convicted of crimes for years, regardless of whether they're felonies or misdemeanours.
Many who've been caught driving under the influence, for instance, are surprised when they're turned back, he said.
Someone needs to explain Canadian law to this yutz. This has nothing to do with felonies and misdemeanours, and everything to do with indictable vs. summary offences.
DUI is an indictable offence, meaning you get a criminal record and potential jail time. Trespassing, on the other hand, is a summary offence, and a pretty minor one at that.
It would be like getting turned back from the border because you got a speeding ticket once. That you paid.
What upsets me the most about all this is that we were cool, man. America was supposed to be the ‘land of the free’, but everyone knew that if you really wanted to be free, you came to Canada. We were the good guys.
A year and a half of Harper, and now this is what they think of us:
I’m starting to understand how progressive Americans feel about what’s become of their country.
(H/T, as always, to Alison at Creekside)