My name is Tom Riley. I came to Canada in June, 1969. I graduated from Saint Michael’s College, University of Toronto in June, 1968 and I went into the Peace Corps in September, 1968 as a draft deferment. The Peace Corps did not work out – I left in January, 1969 after only spending a couple months in Costa Rica. At this point I had to weigh my options and decided to come to Canada. My decision to come was personal rather than political. I had no desire to go to boot camp and have some one yell at and humiliate me on a daily basis and more importantly, I did not want to kill anyone.
It was a very difficult decision to leave my family, my friends and my country but it was good to know that Canada welcomed me and that I was allowed to stay. I cannot imagine what it is like for this new generation of war resisters (young men and women) to leave family, friends, and country and also not to be welcomed in Canada by our government. Especially since Canada chose not to be involved in the Iraq war.
I did front-line social work from 1969 to 1992, working with Children’s Aid, with young offenders, and in housing projects with people on low or fixed incomes. I moved to Stratford, Ontario in 1992 and got out of social work. I returned to Toronto in 1996 and am now working for a social service agency as an Administrative Assistant.
I am presently working with the War Resisters Support Campaign after hearing Jeremy Hinzman, the first public war resister in Canada, speak. I knew this would be a tangible way of helping this new generation of courageous war resisters who have made a moral choice not to fight in an illegal war in Iraq.
Canada has a history of being a refuge for war resisters and we need to convince the current Government of Canada to enact a provision, like they did during the Vietnam war, to allow the war resisters to stay in Canada.