HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html Greetings From Resisterville
Pubdate: Sun, 21 Nov 2004
Source: New York Times (NY)
Copyright: 2004 The New York Times Company
Author: Fred A. Bernstein
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Canada)


NELSON, British Columbia

IT has been more than 30 years since Irene Mock, who grew up on Long
Island, celebrated Thanksgiving in November. In Canada the holiday
falls on the second Monday in October. And Ms. Mock said she is
definitely Canadian. "I came here to start a new life," she said.

At a time when more than a few unhappy liberals in the United States
are rumbling about moving north -- bombarding the Canadian immigration
Web site, fantasizing about Toronto real estate -- Ms. Mock and the
expatriates in this town of 9,300 people on a 90-mile-long crystalline
lake are proof it can be done.

But her move was no mere political protest. In 1970 she drove her
boyfriend to Canada, so he could avoid arrest for evading the Vietnam
draft. "Irene didn't want me to go to jail," said Jeff Mock, who is
now a tofu maker in Nelson, 400 miles inland from Vancouver. "Irene is
the reason I'm here, and being here changed my whole life."

In Nelson, which some say has the highest concentration of draft
resisters in Canada, those men and the women who accompanied them say
they rarely think of the events that made them cross the border 30
years ago. But then, as Ms. Mock put it, what happened in Nelson this
fall "brought it all back."

What happened was that a local peace activist proposed a monument to
honor the "courageous legacy" of American draft resisters. The idea
provoked outrage in the United States, where the presidential election
had reopened wounds of the Vietnam era. Then came calls to boycott

"The negative reaction was so immediate and so forceful that everyone
was stunned," said Don Gayton, a former high school football player
from Seattle, who raised five children in Nelson after immigrating to
Canada during the Vietnam War. Rumors that the United States might
reinstate the draft because of the Iraq war have made the expatriates
wonder if they might find a whole new wave of resisters on their
doorsteps and whether they will be as welcoming as an earlier
generation of Canadians were to them.

Ms. Mock, the former Irene Popkin-Clurman, grew up in Brookville on
the north shore of Long Island. At Antioch College in Ohio she dated
Mr. Mock, a Quaker from Ho-Ho-Kus, N.J. He refused to register for the
draft. In 1970, with the Federal Bureau of Investigation looking for
Mr. Mock, she drove him to Canada in a friend's Volkswagen bus.

After she finished college, they married and settled in Nelson. More than
50,000 draft-age Americans went to Canada during the Vietnam years, said
John Hagan, a professor at Northwestern University and the author of
"Northern Passage: American Vietnam War Resisters in Canada" (Harvard,
2001). About half of them remain in Canada, Professor Hagan said, even
though Jimmy Carter pardoned them in 1977.

"They have lost their sense of Americanness and overwhelmingly
identify themselves as Canadians," Professor Hagan said.

Among the attractions of Nelson at the time was its history of war
resistance. The surrounding Slocan Valley was settled in the teens of
the last century by the Dukhobors, a sect of Christian pacifists who
fled Russia to avoid serving in the Czar's army.

Thanks to the Dukhobors and the Vietnam draft resisters, who dotted
the countryside with yurts and geodesic domes, the town has long been
a haven for free spirits.

"It's quite a unique blend," said Alan Middlemiss, an owner of Holy
Smoke, a store that sells marijuana in its "produce section." Selling
marijuana is illegal in British Columbia but tolerated by local
authorities as long as minors are not served. Mr. Middlemiss said it
was the draft resisters who brought marijuana cultivation to the
Slocan Valley.

If true, that was half a lifetime ago. Now mostly in their 50's, the
expatriates are more likely to talk about how to pay for retirement in
a town that has offered few conventional careers.

They seem especially proud of their community, which has more yoga
instructors, organic bakers and acupuncturists than some large cities.
"It fits me like an old blanket," Mr. Gayton, the former football
player, said.

Mr. Mock, who has been divorced from Ms. Mock for more than 20 years,
occasionally visits the United States. But on one trip 14 years ago,
he had an accident that left him in a coma. In Canada he would have
received free health care. In the United States treatment cost a
fortune, he said over coffee at the All Seasons Cafe. He said he has
never thought of moving back.

Isaac Romano, a peace activist who moved to Nelson from Seattle in
2001, befriended several of the resisters. "Among the right wing in
the U.S. they are often stereotyped as cowards," he said. "It broke my
heart to have to see this kind of ridicule to a population that has
contributed so much" to Canada's tolerance and creativity.

Mr. Romano held a news conference to announce his idea for a large
bronze monument in the form of a man and a woman greeted by a Canadian
with outstretched arms.

He expected to get a small write-up in The Nelson Daily News. But the
announcement found its way to American television, and within days
Nelson was inundated with hate mail, much of it in the guest book
section of the the town's Web site. The Veterans of Foreign Wars, with
more than two million members in the United States, demanded that
President Bush take up the issue with Prime Minister Paul Martin of

A radio station in Spokane, Wash., three hours' drive south, called on
Americans to boycott Nelson. Some skiers canceled trips to the area,
said Roy Hueckendorff, the executive director of the local chamber of

"I've talked to people who lost fathers, brothers in Vietnam," Mr.
Hueckendorff said. "The very idea that you would celebrate this is
beyond their comprehension."

The city's mayor, Dave Elliott, supported the monument at first. But
when business owners who depend on tourism expressed concern about the
boycott, he decided that no public funds would be used for any
monument lacking "broad public support."

That would appear to include the statue proposed by Mr. Romano. Mable
Donaldson, a great-grandmother who has lived in Nelson for 50 years,
said: "I know some of the draft dodgers, and they're very nice, decent
people. But we also wouldn't want to offend our friends south of the

Ms. Donaldson said that when she and her husband, Stan, drove to Reno,
Nev., this year with a Nelson sticker on their car, "We peeled it off
so nobody would know where we were from."

But Mr. Romano's idea, which included a war resisters' festival in the
summer of 2006 called the Our Way Home Reunion, made others proud. "It
doesn't really matter if the monument is built," Ms. Mock said. "It's
important that he's gotten people talking."

The festival, scheduled for July 7 and 8, 2006, may be, Mr. Gayton
said, "like a class reunion, where people say, 'I want to be counted,
I want to be a part of this.' "

His own 40th high school reunion in Seattle this fall provided Mr.
Gayton a chance to put his choices in perspective. Life in Nelson has
not always been easy, he said. The city's last big private employer, a
paper mill, closed in the 1980's. In Nelson, Mr. Gayton said, people
tend to "cobble together two or three jobs just to get by."

The nearest major airport is in Spokane. A smaller airport in
Castlegar, British Columbia, is fogged in so often locals call it
Cancelgar. The valley is hard to drive out of for much of the winter.
Jobs and schools are often far away. Mr. Gayton's wife, Judy Harris,
has taken two of their children to Vancouver while she works on a
master's degree in political science.

But there are plenty of attractions to life in Nelson. Nature has
provided snowcapped mountains reflected in Kootenay Lake.

When the draft resisters first went to Nelson, Mr. Gayton said, some
chose to live in the woods, often in communes. Ms. Mock and Mr. Mock
explored one community, the New Family, which endorsed "free love,"
before putting down roots in town.

Mr. Gayton said his father disapproved of his decision not to go to
Vietnam, and they were estranged for more than a decade. Eventually
they started speaking again, but the bond between them was broken. "It
was a tragedy for both of us," Mr. Gayton said, adding, "I know I'm
not the only one who carried around that sense of loss."

Others went to Canada not knowing if they would ever be able to go
home again. Ernest Hekkanen, now an author, publisher and painter, was
wanted by the F.B.I. when he arrived in Canada in a friend's car in
1969, he said. Unlike some of the Vietnam-era emigres, who prefer
terms like "draft resister," Mr. Hekkanen said, "I use the term 'draft
dodger' with pride."

There are also plenty of Vietnam veterans north of the border. When
Mr. Romano's festival was announced, a group called Vietnam Veterans
in Canada said it would hold a counterfestival in Nelson on the same
dates. Mr. Hueckendorff of the Chamber of Commerce was afraid that the
veterans and the pacifists would come to blows. But Mr. Romano
approached the veterans, and now he says the two groups will
coordinate their programs. "It will be a time for healing," Mr. Romano

Many of the resisters, who have teenage children, say they are glad to
be in Canada during another controversial American war. "I was
conscious when I had a son that he wouldn't be subject to a draft in
the United States," said Ms. Mock, a nurse and writer. Mr. Mock, who
has two teenage sons by his second wife, Renee Walter, a midwife, said
simply, "I'm glad we're here." (Canada last had a draft in World War

If a draft returns in the United States, Mr. Gayton said, he could see
himself running "a kind of underground railroad" to help a new
generation of resisters. But he and others worry that Canada, which in
the 1960's and 70's did not ask about draft status at the border,
would be less lenient next time. The United States, they say, would
pressure Ottawa to turn away draft resisters.

If any get through, they will probably like Nelson. Mr. Mock, a genial
man with a warm smile, would probably make extra tofu, and there is no
telling what kind of deals Mr. Middlemiss of Holy Smoke would offer.

But one thing they will not see is a monument to those who went to
Canada to avoid a draft before them. Mr. Romano, who continues to plan
his festival, has put aside that idea to avoid further controversy.
"It's a very special town, and I don't want anything to hurt it," he