U.S. Iraq War resister Kimberly Rivera voluntarily presented herself at the U.S.-Canada border on the morning of September 20th, after requests to have Canadian Immigration Minister Jason Kenney process her humanitarian and compassionate application were denied. Kim was immediately arrested and detained, and transferred to military custody. She now awaits transfer to a different military facility where she faces punishment for being absent from her unit. Her family, including her four children, crossed separately. Kim did not want her children to have to see her detained by the U.S. military, as this would be traumatic for them. During a Federal Court hearing in Toronto on Monday, September 17th, lawyers for the Department of Justice argued that Kim would not be detained when she crossed the border. A federal court judge ultimately denied her request for a stay of removal, finding arrest and detention to be speculative. Just as the Rivera family’s lawyer argued in court and as was predicted by her Canadian supporters, Kim was detained immediately upon crossing the border into the U.S. on the morning of Thursday, September 20th. Kim now awaits punishment for refusing to return to Iraq, a conflict which Kim and Canada determined was wrong.
Laura Kaminker with the War Resisters Campaign writes of her experiences travelling to the border behind Kim and her family.
Now that some of the details have been made public, I need to write about my experience yesterday and the last few days.
As the public battle to keep Kimberly Rivera and her family in Canada raged, there was, simultaneously, a more private effort to help the Rivera family personally. The War Resisters Support Campaign – especially one person, and many of you know who she is – made heroic efforts to minimize the trauma to the family.
The night before the actual deportation, Kim said goodbye to her children, not knowing when she will see them again. What more can be said about such a scene – so painful, so unjust, so completely unnecessary.
Kim then went with our lead organizer to Kingston; they spent the night near the border. In the morning Kim surrendered to authorities and was immediately taken into custody at Fort Drum.
Meanwhile, Thursday at dawn, a few campaigners met at the Riveras’ apartment. We packed up a large passenger van (which we had rented specifically for this) with the kids and their backpacks, the younger children each clinging to a favourite stuffed animal.
Allan drove the van with Mario Rivera and all the kids, and I went in another car with a campaign friend and comrade, and we drove to Buffalo.
At the Buffalo border, we waited in the parking lot of the duty-free store, giving the kids juice and keeping the younger ones entertained while we worked out the final details of Mario and the kids getting to Texas.
Once that was done, we went to the CBSA office. Mario presented himself and got his official papers.
Next we had to cross the US border. Naturally, the guard in the booth couldn’t understand the situation – “What do you mean you’re helping him move? Why can’t they move themselves?” – and ordered us all in to the station. Fortunately, though, this did not turn out to be a major hurdle. We merely explained the complicated situation – omitting any mention of military desertion, as it’s hardly relevant at that point – showed our various identification, including Mario’s birth certificate from Texas, and were soon on our way.
Then we drove into Buffalo and helped Mario with the final arrangements of his trip. We transferred the kids to another van and said goodbye. The Rivera family – minus their mother, the head of their household, their rock – began their 22-hour drive to Texas.
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These complex plans were made while the Campaign was simultaneously churning on all cylinders (and then some) organizing press conferences, statements from endorsers, interviews, massive petition drives and leafletting campaigns, demonstrations, and whatever else.
It’s been an incredible effort, buoyed by tens of thousands of Canadians who called on the Harper government to show compassion and to respect Canadian tradition.
This government is a disgrace.
This morning I learned that after it was confirmed in the House of Commons that Kim had left Canada, a huge cheer went up from the Conservative bench. Whoo-hoo, a government has split up a family. Aren’t they big and strong.
What breed of evil is this?
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Last Sunday, along with several core Campaigners, I attended an Appreciation Dinner for Kimberly Rivera, hosted by the Toronto Quakers. It was an opportunity to spend quiet time with Kim – to share a meal, to express our love and gratitude, and our solidarity.
After dinner, there was a brief ceremony in the Quaker tradition. Kim thanked us for all the love we have shown her and her family, and for all our efforts on their behalf. She said, “No matter what happens, my experiences in Canada have changed me forever. Through people like you and so many others I have met, I discovered whole new worlds. I discovered myself. No matter what happens, nothing will ever take that away from me.”
Originally posted on the blog, We Move to Canada.