By the mid-1960’s, I was convinced that the American war in Vietnam was not only illegal but also immoral. Coming from a patriotic Republican family in Trenton, New Jersey, this was quite a leap. As the war progressed, I did whatever was necessary to avoid being drafted: any and every deferment was good (a token marriage, a job as a social worker, student status). When I was working in New York City as a computer programmer in 1967, I joined a group called “Programmers for Peace” and finally was able to put my feelings into a political context.
In June 1968, I got my first notice. I had no intention of going so I decided to do the jail time. But, before going down to refuse, I decided to take a vacation in Montreal to prepare myself for prison. There, thanks to the Canadians I met, I found the local American war resisters. They told me that the Canadian government was accepting war resisters as immigrants without prejudice.
On September 6, 1968, I crossed the border and left “Amerika” behind, changing my life forever. In Montreal, I joined the American Refugee Service (ARS) that operated a hostel for American resisters arriving without papers. And, in 1972, when the ARS was invited to present its opinions on amnesty to a US Senate Committee chaired by Ted Kennedy, I even sneaked back to present our position paper. (See my “Then” photo.)
After the war was over, even though I was “pardoned” by President Carter, I decided to stay. Frankly, I was disappointed that the end of the Vietnam War brought no change in America. For me, the problem was structural and it would happen again. The American war machine was only stalled, not broken.
I made a place for myself in Quebec, making a living in the film business. I retired at age 64 in 2005.
Over the years in Canada, I have been active politically on social issues, at the international level on questions related to Third World Cinema, and domestically, in the struggle against discrimination and violence aimed at homosexuals as well as the fight against HIV-AIDS.
On September 14th, 1998 I made my contribution to Canadian society by launching the battle for same-sex marriage. Ridiculed at first, even by our own community, my long-time partner René LeBoeuf and I fought an uphill battle to become the first gay couple married in Quebec on April 1, 2004.
For more information, see my brief to the Permanent Committee on Citizenship and Immigration of the Canadian Parliament concerning the issue of refugee status for the Iraq War Resisters. See also, the entry in Wikipedia.