Diane Wilson, an antiwar activist from Texas, drove over the U.S. border south of Vancouver on Sunday just to see if she could.Whether or not U.S. antiwar activists are allowed into Canada was key to Sunday's Our Way Home Vancouver Peace Conference at Simon Fraser University's Harbour Centre.
Wilson was part of a convoy on-hand to support two of the event's participants.
The keynote speaker, retired U.S. colonel Ann Wright, who resigned from the State Department over the invasion of Iraq, and Medea Benjamin, another leading U.S. political activist, were not expected to make it across the border.
Both were denied entry to Canada last year, with Canadian authorities claiming they are named on a FBI watch list due to misdemeanor convictions stemming from participation in antiwar demonstrations.
But after more than two hours of Canadian questioning at the border crossing at Blaine, the pair arrived at the conference.
NDP MP Libby Davies, who was part of a group of supporters who drove across the border in a van with Wright and Benjamin, said she sat through the questioning.
"I don't think I've ever had to do quite so much to welcome people to the city of Vancouver," said Davies, adding that such treatment of two leading U.S. peace activists raises questions about the government's security provisions. "These are two individuals that pose absolutely no security risk to our country. They are here as peace activists."
Wilson said she was not stopped at the border despite about 20 arrests for civil disobedience related to activism. She said she hopes the Canadian government decides to support Iraqi war resisters.
"I just say, let 'em stay. Let 'em stay," said Wilson, adding she values the three months she spent in Toronto in 1970.
Benjamin said she is excited that parliament is expected to vote Tuesday on a motion that would call upon the government to allow U.S. war resisters to stay in Canada.
Wright said she was relieved to be back in Canada, even if just for the day: "I was hoping I could stand on Canadian soil again in my lifetime and it is with great pleasure today that I do."
© The Vancouver Sun 2008