|THE MONTREAL COUNCIL TO AID WAR RESISTERS
MY YEARS, (1972-1975) AS THE DIRECTOR OF THE MONTREAL COUNCIL TO AID WAR RESISTERS AND THE AMERICAN REFUGEE SERVICE: BY GARY W. DAVIS
The Montreal Council To Aid War Resisters was simply a product of its times, born of necessity. American incentive, imagination and ingenuity at work. It was formed sometime in late 1967, maybe even "early" 1968...it depends on who you ask. It was an effective operation, in many ways laying the groundwork for a number of others to follow. Still, somehow it always managed to maintain an ad-hoc air about it. In late 1970 talks began of a merger between The Council and another Montreal based war resistance organization that was having similar identity problems, The American Deserters Committee. Both groups were loosely organized and riddled with in-house diversions but made up of sincere, well-intentioned individuals. Both groups were dedicated to aiding fellow Americans who came to Canada to avoid prosecution in the United States for violation of laws related to the war in Vietnam, however both groups were dedicated to extremely differing degrees. And though both groups were diligent in their duties and unquestionably sincere in their intent, their effectiveness and their credibility in general were highly suspect at times due to their apparent distrust of one another and their constant "warring" with other aid groups that had sprung up in Montreal and elsewhere. And, as the song says, "the times they were a changin'...". Even the names themselves of the two groups were determined to be detrimental to the respective groups' actual intent. After all, the words, "war resister" and "deserter", pretty much freely permit certain preconceived notions to be put into play. With the merger of the two groups in late 1971, The American Refugee Service was born. It's intent was evident, it's credibility was immediate. Even the name of The ARS was chosen to more reflect the scope of the newly formed organization. It was a move that flourished in every regard. Suddenly we had attained a degree of respectability hitherto unknown. Politicians acknowledged us, other "movement" factions suddenly supported us and the press was pleased as punch, especially the television reporters. No longer would they have to spoil everybodys' dinner hour by saying those dirty words, "draft-dodger" and "deserter" ever again. We could now officially be labeled "refugees". As it was intended, it all looks good on paper, because basically it was all bullshit...and every body on every side knew it. Nothing had changed. It was simply a case of the radical world meeting the world of public relations. Still, the union of The Council and The ADC gave both groups something they could never have attained individually, and The American Refugee Service grew to become one of the most effective and productive anti-war organizations in North America... and quite possibly in the free world.
MY REASON FOR DOING THIS:
In surfing the internet recently I happened upon a website that was dedicated to the Vietnam War and to those that resisted it. The author of the site made repeated mention of several groups based in the United States such as the Vietnam Veterans Against The War, The American Friends Service Committee and The War Resistance League, however he made only the slightest mention whatsoever of any of the groups and organizations outside of the United States, specifically in Canada, that aided thousands upon thousands of American draft resisters and deserters during the Vietnam War era. At first I was puzzled by this, thinking surely such an oversight could not possibly go unnoticed by the author? Then I started looking for information on these groups myself. To my astonishment I found only two items that even mentioned any of the Canadian based war resistance organizations that existed during the Vietnam War. One mentioned the Toronto Anti-Draft Programme several times and another referenced The Montreal Council To Aid War Resisters once. Granted, I did not do a headlong, indepth subject search of the entire internet, nonetheless I found it strange that so little information was available on the information highway that dealt with these groups. Groups who were once such a visible and vocal part of one of America's most trying times. Feeling the need to fill at least a portion of that void, and perhaps simply because, "the time is right", I have taken it upon myself to offer these few pages. In the eight or nine years that The Montreal Council To Aid War Resisters existed in one form or another, I was its' director for three and a half of those years. I was its' director on the day the draft was finally put to death, on the day that so-called "President Ford" announced a so-called "amnesty" for draft resisters, on the day that the never "declared" VietNam War was "offically" declared over, and on the thousand days in between. I was also there on the day that it came time to close its doors for the last time. I claim no degree of literary mastery, I do not intend for this to be some long, drawn out epic endeavor. Hell I won't even be able to keep everything in the right order... it's been thirty years! I simply want to relate a few truths about a subject that I was a major part of, and one that "was", and always will be, a major part of me. This text will change no doubt as I write it. That is, I'm certain a helluva lot of memories will come back to me as I deliver this message to print. In the meantime, this is how it was.
In April of 1971 I refused induction into the Armed Forces of the United States and took up residency in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. I was nineteen years old. I had been involved to some extent in the anti-war movement in my hometown of Virginia Beach, Virginia, however I was not even a "member" muchless a "leader" of any anti-war group or organization. I had attended a number of anti-war rallies and protests in Norfolk, Williamsburg, Richmond and Washington D.C. and it was at these gatherings that I met a cast of characters that were to influence my future involvement in the anti-war movement. An eclectic elite of the counter-culture bounced around from one protest to another in those days, and I, being a musician who occasionally performed at some of these gatherings as well as being a draft card-carrying, anti-war protester, somehow came into contact with a good number of these characters. Most notably, Alan Ginsburg, Rennie Davis, Pete Seeger, Arlo Guthrie, Bill Kuntsler and Dave Dillinger. In August of 1970, with a Selective Service Lottery Number of number 1, I wrote a letter to The Editor of The Virginian Pilot Newspaper in reference to an article the paper had run about a young woman who had been charged with desecrating the American Flag by wearing one on the seat of her pants. In my letter I made it perfectly clear that I supported the young woman's right to free expression, and that a flag, any flag, was nothing more than a piece of material, certainly nothing to die for. I also took the opportunity to make my stance on the war in Vietnam equally as clear, and then made light of the fact that inevitably, with a lottery number of number 1, my day to take a stand on the matter and "put up or shut up" was close at hand. The paper published my letter and then In typcal media fashion they sent a reporter to my home for that follow-up "human interest" story. I balked at the idea at first, (an omen unheeded) however I felt the opportunity to air my opinions in the public forum outweighed the possible negative consequences of the article, especially in a military entrenched area such as Tidewater Virginia. (By the way, the reporter who did the story, Lawrence Madry, would also be assigned to do a story on me when I returned to Virginia Beach after four and a half years in "exile" in Canada as a war resister.) As it turned out, Lawrence Madry was a fair man... as reporters go. Looking back on his article all these years later and comparing it to the countless other articles and interviews which I would do as a result of my years with The Council/ARS, I had no idea just how fair he was at the time. I can't count the times in later interviews or articles that I would be misquoted or misrepresented by the twisting around of my own words. Eventually I just quit doing interviews all together. I just got sick and tired of damn near every word that I spoke in the course of one becoming subject to being contorted and taken completely out of context. Anyway, I was drafted in March of 1971 after holding off the inevitable for several months through a series of basically bullshit appeals to my draft board. Ordered for induction on April 20, 1971, I arrived in Montreal on April 21st. Naturally I got involved with the "movement" there. In the fall of 1971 I was given a position as a refugee counselor with The Council. I counseled hundreds of others who had followed the very same path I had taken just six month before. At times it was the most rewarding experience I had ever been a part of. To see that look of relief in their eyes when you told one of them that they could legally stay in Canada, that we would help them, that everything was going to work out for them. Remember, the majority of these individuals were still teenagers or no more than 20 or 21 on the outside. Many were away from their home, family and friends for the very first time "and" for an indefinite length of time... if not forever. At other times though it was a job that could break your heart when you had to tell one of them that there was no way that they could stay in Canada "legally", basically because Canada had it's share of absurd laws as well. "No, you can't stay here because you were young and stupid once and got caught smoking a joint.." (It always baffled me why a country such as Canada who had such liberal laws itself regarding drugs, felt compelled to inflict upon others the consequences of lesser nations absurd laws regarding drug possession.) Anyway, in the winter of 1971 The Council became The ARS. (It would remain The ARS to the outside world from that day on however to those of us who were a part of it, it never ceased to be, The Montreal Council.) A short time later, The Director of The Council, Richard Gooding, decided to leave his post because of personal reasons. He asked me to assume his position as Director. It was an undertaking which I had never even entertained the thought of yet one which I did not hesitate to accept. It would be a life altering decision. Up until that time I had been just one of the counselors, one of about three or four regular staff who alternated on different days of the week. We were paid a salary, given a desk and we clocked in basically just like Joe Blow at the factory. Our lives outside of that world were ours. In becoming The Director however my world was to become one of constant involvement in The Council and it's day to day dealings with the world and all of the beasts that hold court in it. I became the "spokesperson" with regard to the public and the media. I did interviews with hundreds of newspapers and magazines. The New York Times, The London Times, Le Monde, The Miami Herald, Time Magazine, Newsweek etc. I did countless television news shows on just about every network in the world, ABC, NBC, CBS, The CBC, The BBC, Networks in France, Japan, Germany, Italy, Sweden, Australia and I truly don't remember how many others. I was the one who dealt almost daily with our legal represenatives both in Canada and the ACLU in the states. And I was the one who had to fight for and fight to keep our funding from the National and the World Council Of Churches. I still counseled those in need, however the degree of need had changed considerably. While working as a staff counselor, I and the others counseled only draft resisters and deserters who needed our help in staying in Canada to resist prosecution in the US. For The Director of The Council however, as I was to discover in a somewhat secretive meeting with Richard one evening at his house, there were many others who were "directed" to us for our help in escaping prosecution. These people were only dealt with by the director for obvious reasons. Their "crimes" extended far beyond selective service law violations. They had used more extreme means and measures to vent their anger with the American government. Bernadette Dorhn had smuggled guns to the IRA. The Armstrong Brothers had killed someone with their bombing in Madison, Wisconsin. Mark Rudd, as the leader of the Weather Underground was a radical of serious extent. There were Air Force pilots who had discovered drug smuggling rings within their command and fled in fear for their lives. There were several Priests who had committed "sins" of a most humane nature. I literally had late night meetings with men in trench coats and lunches with individuals who had hundreds of thousands of dollars of reward money being offered for their capture. My days of being "just" a draft resister and being someone "just" trying to help out others in the same boat ended when I took the position of being The Director of The Montreal Council To Aid War Resisters and The American Refugee Service. The Council was officially disbanded in July of 1975... basically because I decided that while the other aid groups in Canada were struggling to maintain their pretty much null and void existence, primarily because the leaders of those groups had absolutely no life outside of their respective group, The Montreal Council To Aid War Resisters had done it's job. It's day was over and it deserved a dignified death. I chose the day, it was my birthday.
I will always remember, as anybody would, the day I got off of a Trailways Bus and stepped foot on Canadian soil for the first time in my life. It was a rainy afternoon. I remember I took a moment to just take it all in and then I made my way to 3625 Aylmer Street in the McGill University "Ghetto" district. That was the address of The Yellow Door. (Don't ask me how I can remember that...) The Yellow Door was a bustling, three story, greystone house on a street lined with dozens of them. It however was a world apart from the others. The Yellow Door "housed" a lot of diverse things. Chuck Baker and his wife Kathy lived on the third floor. Chuck was kind of the manager of the whole affair. He and Kathy were Canadians but sympathetic to the plight of American war resisters. The second floor was a library and the offices of The Student Christan Movement of McGill University. Father Roger Balk was pretty much the Lord and overseer of it all. Now the basement of The Yellow Door was actually, "The" Yellow Door. It was a coffeehouse, The Yellow Door Coffeehouse. During the day it served a 35cent plate lunch to all comers. In the afternoon it played host to bridge, chess and hearts players and at night it championed local folk singers and occasionally a touring up-and-comer. All the while serving up coffee and hot apple cider. The first floor of the house was were most of the activity during the daylight hours took place. It was made up of "offices". That is, what was once a living room, parlor, dining room, kitchen and the like, had been converted into rooms of an office in nature and each housed a different social- serviced type group or organization. Planned Parenthood, Legal Aid, etc. One of those groups was The Montreal Council To Aid War Resisters. My first contact with The Council came in the form of one Bill Mullins. A bearded, bespectaled "hippie" some years my senior who had all the bedside manner of a doctor who also owned a funeral home. The absolute last things in the world that a nineteen year old who has just traveled a thousand miles to a foreign land where he knew not a soul wanted or "needed" to hear, were the exact things Bill Mullins said to me. "You can't stay here...You don't have enough education...You don't speak French...You have no trade...You'll never get Landed Status here in Montreal...You'll have to go to Calgary." He served up misery on a platter with a ho-hum, who-gives-a-shit attitude more befitting an army recruiting sergeant than a respresentative of a major anti-war movement organization. Fortunately for me and all of the others who would follow me to that address on Aylmer Street, Bill Mullins days were numbered. He was headed elsewhere and he was just marking time until he got there. If he had ever possessed the passion of a man in defiance of a nation it had long since abandoned him. There have been times when I have looked back on that day and recalled the numbness of the moment. I remember thinking that if I were the one behind that desk I would certainly try out a more positve attitude on those who sought my help in such a trying time of their lives. Little did I know that my chance to do just that was closer than I ever would have imagined. I would see Bill again on a number of occasions at various meetings or conferences, but that was the only time that I ever asked him for advice. The man who would take over for him at The Council was everything Bill had not been, or at least...wasn't any more.
A NEW DIRECTOR AND A NEW DIRECTION
Richard Gooding was from Chicago. His family was of the upper crust, his father a VP at Gulf Oil. He had been "disowned" by them as a result of his stance on the war and his decision to resist it. (This was a very common repercussion for many resisters. Sadly it only served to worsen an already worse enough situation.) Anyway, Richard was an aspiring writer. He had worked for Life Magazine. He had been drafted several years before me and he and his wife, Susan, had opted for Canada instead of Richard going to prison. Richard was a very strongly principled person, he had seriously considered going to prison before realizing that that was actually not a viable option. He was a "veteran" of the movement. He hadn't burned out on it though like Bill and some of the others. He still felt that fire burn within him. He still held that passion in his heart for doing what was right. He became a mentor of sorts and a very good friend. I last spoke with him about two years ago after he had appeared on the Geraldo Rivera Show. (He was a reporter covering the Jon Benet Ramsey case.) Anyway, It was Richard who actually brought me officially into the fold of The Montreal Council. He had already personally aided me in my being able to stay in Canada by posting my bond for my appeal hearing regarding my denial for Landed Status, now he offered me a position as a counselor with The Council. It was a salaried position counseling and assisting other resisters in their efforts to remain in Canada. The positions of counselor as well as that of the director were paid for by contributions from a number of sources, some of which might surprise most. The National Council Of Churches was our primary benefactor, The World Council Of Churches being the other major contributor. Our group, along with the other three "majors" and several lesser committees and councils throughout Canada, were paid for with money which came primarily from The United States. We had regular meetings with the directors of the Church Councils, usually in Toronto. Representatives from the other committees and aid groups would gather and we'd all fight over who got how much and why. It eventually turned into a numbers game. Whichever group was pushing the most heads through the gate per monh usually used this fact to their advantage. Being in Montreal and Toronto, the largest cities in Canada, by sheer volume of people opting for a city in Canada, more often than not one of the two of us would have the highest numbers. This would sit less and less well with the other groups as time went on, especially with Tim Maloney, Jerry Olson and the bunch from the Winnipeg Program. For the most part, the folks that ran the Toronto Anti Draft Programme and myself got along great. Dick Brown, Katie Mcgovern and Dan, who's last name escapes me just now, and I, had very few problems between us. In fact, without fail after every conference or meeting we'd all end up drunk together in some German beer garden that Dick and Dan were fans of. The directors of the other groups however, those that represented Vancouver and Winnipeg, for the most part, were complete asses. Larry Martin, from Vancouver had his likeable days but that was when we were all out together doing something completely unrelated to our common bond. The rest of his lot and especially Tim and Jerry and their crew in Winnipeg were just complete pompous asses. That's the only way to describe them. They would have been pomous asses had they joined the army, now they were just pompous asses resisting joining the army. It was just a fact of life. As for the other, "lesser" groups, Halifax and Calgary, for the most part, they were operated on a part-time basis and really had no permanent director per se. They simply had respresentatives who took turns attending the national meetings and conferences. To tell you the truth, not a single name comes to mind. They were pretty uninspiring both in their presence and in their performance. Few resisters chose to go to Halifax in the first place unless they already knew somebody there. And as far as Calgary was concerned, no body went there unless Bill Mullins sent them.
THE AMERICAN REFUGEE SERVICE
Until late in 1971 there were two major war resistance organizations in Montreal, The Montreal Council To Aid War Resisters and The American Deserters Committee. The Council was a pretty much low keyed outfit, it strived to maintain such a presence. It was an all around, "full service" organization, providing counseling and assisting with housing and employment for both draft resisters and deserters. The ADC on the other hand was a much more hard lined, radical outfit that specifically worked with deserters only. David Beauchine, who headed up the ADC when I first came into contact with it, possessed a very mild mannered demeanor on the outside but I somehow always suspected that he was capable of pretty much anything given the right motivation, means. and circumstances. At a meeting in the winter of 1971 it was decided that the two groups should merge thereby presenting a more unified presence to the outside world. At least that was what the press and everyone else was told. The truth of the matter is that there was so much shit going on within the ADC between it's members that the group was about to implode. In essence the group splintered and several factions went their separate ways. There were some serious radicals within the core of the ADC. They forever pressed for more extreme measures of challenging the US Government. This created quite a high tension atmosphere. There was constant in-house fighting and arguing. I met several of these hardliners. I "knew" none of them and I cared to know less. These were some very dangerous individuals. It would not surprise me to learn that some of them went on to do very extreme things in their war on the United States Government. I doubt I'll ever know though for with the merger of the two groups most of the ADC staff disappeared. Some of them, "literally". It had long been suspected that more than one member of the ADC was actually an undercover FBI Agent. Undercover agents were everywhere in those days. Anyway, the groups merged and The American Refugee Service was born. As I mentioned previously however, though The ARS became the group's offical title it would never truly cease to be, The Montreal Council To Aid War Resisters. Richard maintained directorship of the group, David stuck with us for awhile though he kept pretty much out of the picture until the tv crews arrived for whatever reason. He loved having the podium. Eventually he left the group all together as Richard and Michael Hendricks, a gay activist and Council supporter, began doing most of the group's pr work until I took over the job. David died of a brain tumor several years later.
The basic function of The ARS was pretty much the same as it had been as The Council. We provided refugee Americans with an initial contact in Canada so that they didn't go stumbling around blindly into the cold midnight. Once they contacted us we set the wheels of the immigration process into motion. We also assisted them in finding housing if they had money, or provided them with a bed and meals at our hostel if they didn't have money. Getting them gainfully employed was a tricky and touchy area we helped in. Without a work permit, being employed in Canada was an offense which subjected the offender to deportation. Not a pleasant thought at all for a draft resister or a deserter. A work permit was obtained through application. Applications were typically backed up for a year or more. "Hey, one's gotta' eat, 'eh?" Through a small network of merchants, factories and fellow Americans who had established business' or companies in Canada, we managed to secure life sustaining employment for refugees on a somewhat, "under-the-table" basis. It was the only thing that could be done. Now the immigration process itself was really not that big a deal for a properly prepared and equally properly qualified applicant. It was simply a walk-thru with them. Of course, such applicants were far from the norm. For the others however, those with far less credentials or pedigree, things could get rough on our side and I'm sure, "scary" on theirs. These cases took leg work, luck and excellent preperation. Fortunately, through the years we had made a few friends on the "inside" at immigration and we usually knew when a perspective applicant could expect trouble with his application. In those cases we provided legal assistance in the form of attorneys and legal aides who were sympathetic to our cause and volunteered their time. There were some instances, a good number of them actually, when we had to personally get down into the trenches with the men. It was not a well known fact but an applicant for immigrancy into Canada could obtain an additional 10 points on his score by applying for Landed Status "at" the Canadian border instead of from within Canada. This 10 points was most crucial in many cases. It was definitely the make-or-break factor. The trick to getting that extra 10 points however was one of sheer nerve and guts. To apply at the Canadian border meant just that, going to a customs station at the Canadian border. Sounds simple. However, there was only a couple of ways to get to a Canadian customs station at the border and all of those ways entailed the applicant and his escort physically entering the United States which of course meant going through US Customs. They would then go down the road a ways, usually to Poughkeepsee, NY, turn around and head back into Canada. This process was of course accomplished with the use of false ID's that we provided. It was definitely not an alternative that could be used on everybody who needed a few extra points on their application. It was reserved for extreme cases as it took an applicant that we felt had the nerves to go through with it, as well as a counselor who could hold up under the strain. Being caught aiding a federal fugutive or deserter was certainly not taken lightly in those days. Nonetheless it was a means we used on a number of occasions to salvage a good man's future. In all the times we did it we "lost" only one person. He was a real southern boy from Florida, a deserter. He was short with blonde hair. His name was Bob. He had stayed at our hostel in preperation for his trip. He was the kind of guy everyone loved to kid. He took it in stride. Mainly it was his accent that everyone kidded him about. His accent was as thick as molasses. We were leery about sending him in the first place, however he was insistent about going and for some reason that I just cannot recall at this moment, we were under some type of time restraint or time frame regarding Bob's application being submitted. We provided him with Canadian ID for his trip back into the US, sent him in the care of two Canadians who sometimes assisted us with the "sticky" ones, and basically we told him to just keep his mouth shut. Well, he didn't. Keep his mouth shut, that is, and sad to say he paid the price for it. The story goes, he flashed that Canadian ID at the US Customs Station and when the entire group was asked where they were heading in the US, Bob was the first to blurt out, "Just down the road a piece.", in all that southern twang. He was taken into custody, questioned and "almost" released when they couldn't find any warrants on him at first. The fact that he had false ID on him however made them dig deeper and eventually he was discovered to be AWOL. He was taken off to jail. Our Canadian friends were released unscathed the next day. That would have been the end of it for me except evidently Bob fell into that category of, "God watches over small children and fools." Sometime later he called me one day just out of the clear blue. He was back home living in Florida. He had been given a less than honorable discharge and served 120 days in the stockade and now he was a free man. A little worst for the wear and bearing the scars of battle perhaps but a free man just the same. And there he was on the beach in the sunshine while I sat staring out at four feet of snow.
THE PROCESS (FOR THOSE WHO NEED TO KNOW)
Obtaining Landed Immigrant Status was everyone's goal who sought refuge in Canada. Getting "Landed" was a simple process in most regards, it was based upon a point system. You were given points for different factors. For instance, you were given five points for speaking English, five points for speaking French. One point for every year of completed schooling, a varying number of points for your occupation or trade etc. The true beauty of the system however was that unlike almost every other country on earth, which accepted applications for immigrancy only from applicants who were still in their home country, Canada permitted potential immigrants to apply for this status while already being in Canada. And should you be rejected on your initial application, you could appeal the process which could take years. But, and this is without a doubt perhaps the biggest "but" of all time, an applicant could remain and live in Canada while awaiting their appeal hearing. Again, this could take years. (This happened in my case. I applied for Landed Status in 1971. I was rejected and appealed. I was finally granted Landed Status in 1974.) So basically the job of the counselors at all of the aid centers was one of preparing the individual to do as well as possible on their initial application for Landed Immigrant Status. We knew what trades or skills were most in demand in Canada, (We had obtained a copy of the Immigration Department's Directory Of Occupational Skills And Services, a MOST Valuable book, indeed.) thereby insuring the most points possible for career possibilities. We had Priests, doctors, lawyers and indian chiefs who would offer up letters of recommendation or reference for individual applicants. It was a process not unlike a client and his attorney preparing for a court appearance. In many ways that was exactly what it was, because the outcome, good or bad, was most definitely a life altering experience. Still, with the right preperation and a bit of scheduled luck we managed to maintain a success rate of getting people landed that hovered around 85-90%. Okay, so maybe we bent the rules a bit here and there, in fact, maybe we just out and out lied in a few cases, but Canada gained from our deeds. They got a helluva lot of new citizens who had a heart, a mind and a conscience. Some have gone far and garnered much success in their adopted nation, of this I have no doubt.
SOME OF THE CAST AND CREW
In the course of writing this piece I've realzed that I've been mentioning the names of people, some of which, I haven't thought about in many, many years. Richard as I mentioned was the last one that I spoke to and that was two years ago. Chuck Baker, the manager of The Yellow Door, I talked to about five years ago. Other than those two I can't remember my last contact with the rest of those mentioned in this writing. A few of them I do think about now and then, for instance Dick and Dan from Toronto do occasionally cross my mind. We spent a lot of time together. I wonder about how their lives turned out. What they went on to accomplish? Both were dedicated to the cause they followed at that time in their lives, but then again...so was I, then. Maybe they just did what a lot of us did and that was to just put the whole affair to rest. I suspect such a reason as accounting for the lack of first hand writings such as this one from others who were a part of it. A lot of us just don't want to relive it. Not that it can even begin to compare with the horrors of the men who went to Vietnam and fought must relive, nonetheless it still comes with it's own ghosts. One thing that I have discovered from all of this is that it's a lot harder than one thinks to piece together a portion of your past. Even one of the most memorable portions. Names get mixed up and dates get completely befuddling at times. Faces start to blur, you can't quite ever see them clearly anymore. Maybe it's all just nature's way of cleaning out our "Favorites" file? Anyway, there are a couple of fellow resisters and one or two "civilians" whom I fondly recall once in awhile. They weren't members of The Council, just personal acquaintences.
Bob Ryskewicz was an outstandingly tasteful guitarist originally from Vermont, I believe it was. Bob was an incredible exception to the rule when it came to resister's families not supporting a lot of their sons in their decision to resist the war and move to Canada. When Bob decided to do just that, his family packed up everyhing and moved right along with him. His mother and father and his sister just up and followed him to Montreal. I met them a number of times and they were truly remarkable people. Bob was an incredibly fortunate man in that regard but then Bob was far from your sterotypical draft resister. By vocation he was a stock broker. He played music semi-professionally and he and I even worked together in several bands. When we last spoke which was about ten years ago, he was a vice president at Polydor Records Canada.
Jesse Winchester was probably the most famous draft resister that resided in Canada. When I met him he was literally teetering on the verge of stardom. Bob Dylan's manager had just signed him and Robbie Robertson from The Band was due to produce his next album. His previous album had been produced by Todd Rundgren. He and I met as musicians and I ended up working with him on a few occasions. Our meeting had nothing to do with The Council. Jesse had at one point, when he first arrived in Montreal, been involved with some of the earlier ad-hoc war resistance groups that existed then however he no longer had any involvement with any of us on that level. Some believed it was because his career was rapidly on the rise. I personally don't believe that that was the reason at all though it was certainly well rumored that Albert Grossman, his new manager, had suggested that Jesse distance himself from the entire Vietnam issue in an effort to win acceptance for his records back home in the US. I believe Jesse's decision to distance himself from all of us was not actually a decision at all. Jesse wasn't big on making decisions. Jesse was a great guy to be around...sometimes. At one point however his drug use got so severe that no one could deal with it anymore. He literally became a hermit at more than one point, sending out for food, booze and drugs and not necessarily in that order. Eventually his wife and he split up and it finally took its toll on his musical career as well. He was left lingering on that hazy plateau of, "could've been giants". Sad, but somehow I think he's comfortable there. I do still occasionally see him on television so I guess he's still got that angel looking after him.
There was a young girl who worked as a counseler with us for a while, for the life of me I can't remember her last name. Her first name was Nina. (There is a photo of she and I together in a February 1973 issue of Time Magazine.) I believe Nina was from New York. I never understood fully how she came to be a part of The Council, she just showed up one day, a college student full of vim and vitality and bent on being a part of the "movement". She was feisty and headstrong and though she openly supported the burgeoning "Women's Lib" movement of the day, unlike so many others, she managed all the while to maintain her femininity. She was simply one of those people from your past...that you would liked to have known in your future. Anyway, I do on occasion wonder about Nina. We had a good relationship but we were never really close enough to get to know one another.
There was a "character" who just one day appeared out of nowhere, his name was Baxton Bryant. He was a preacher of sorts, and he and his wife just one day were suddenly here, there and everywhere. They claimed to have been from a little town called Swanannoa, North Carolina. They arrived one day in Montreal in their motor home, their hearts filled with love and compassion for the plight of the "draft-dodgers". Baxton, so help me was the spitting image of the Macy's Santa Claus in "Miracle On 34th Street". He looked "exactly" like Santa Claus. He wore brand new kahki overalls and nothing but. He was jovial and gracious, he seemed sincerely interested and concerned about our situation but as I said, he and his wife just magically appeared one day and were suddenly everywhere at once. This kind of mysterious behavior on any newcomer's part during this time frame never failed to fuel the fires of paranoia in the minds of many. Could Santa be an undercover agent? He sure did ask a lot of questions...The scene was set, paranoia reigned. It was just one of those times when we were all suspect of traitors in our midst, several had been recently discovered. Looking back I believe Baxton was a well meaning man who just took the most direct route to the heart of the matter. He had breached the protocol however of entering our little world. His punishment was to be shunned. Almost fitting. He and his wife one day just disappeared just as they had appeared.
A MAGIC AND A "NOT" SO MAGIC MOMENT OR TWO
Mike Wallace and 60 Minutes came to town one Thanksgiving, they claimed they came looking for the truth. They left it, the truth, that is, more blurred than ever. Wallace and his producer, Barry Lando, a Canadian, by the way, (another one of those,"don't ask me how I remember that?."), came to The Council in search of resisters to interview because of the possibility of an amnesty being granted by the US Government. They said they wanted to find resisters who were going to accept an Amnesty. We told them we knew of none. It was the God's honest truth. We knew of no resisters who had legitimate plans of accepting an amnesty and returning to the United States. Not the "limited" amnesty that was being discussd at that time. Wallace found this unacceptable and also found himself without a story. So he dug deep and found some farm boy from Kansas or Nebraska, I can't begin to remember his name, who acknowledged that he was prepared to accept an amnesty and "surrender". That evening at our community Thanksgiving Dinner, after very, very heated discussion amongst the members of the council as to whether or not to allow Wallace and his crew to attend, Mike Wallace betrayed us all and showed that the reporter in him had long since been devoured by the sensationalist he'd become. We had permitted he and his crew to join us for dinner with the condition no taping be done. Wallace agreed. It was at this dinner however, as he picked at and probed everyone's brain for answers to his lifeless questions, that Wallace found his farmboy and his young wife. After taping segment after segment with myself and other resisters, he wound up focusing the show that aired on this young boy from the midwest and his wife who were both so homesick that they were willing to accept any form of amnesty offered. He portrayed this couple to be representative of all war resisters in Canada. He made us look as if we were all seated at the border, bags in hand and staring forlornly off at the hills of The Motherland begging for forgiveness. He betrayed us in the utmost since of the word. We had opened our doors to him, invited him into our community and I personally had spent a good many hours with him in the time he had spent in Montreal with us. (I will "never" forget the way he would take out his bible, stand facing a corner and pray before every taping. That was a sign I should have heeded.) To my knowledge, no other aid group anywhere in Canada ever did another interview with Mike Wallace or Barry Lando again. It left us all with a bitter taste in our mouthes and with an ever growing sense of distrust of the media.
I cannot with any degree of preciseness recall the first time that I met Steve Young. It seems like I just turned around one day and there he was. I believe it was in 1972. He was a fledgling television reporter for a major network, CBS sounds right, and I was the Director of The Council and absolutely head over heels into my job. It was a position not at all unlike being on stage as a musician, it's rewards were immediate and accessible. Steve had been sent to interview us about whatever the latest revelation about the war was, I honestly don't remember why he was there. I do remember he and I hit it off quite well. Now, I do remember the "last" time that I saw Steve Young...personally, that is. It was in 1975 in Toronto. He was by then a near star reporter for CBS and I was a seriously burnt out council director. I was in Toronto to represent The Council at this big conference with all of the aid groups and the representatives of The National and World Council Of Churches, the ACLU and a slew of other polictical factions related to war resistance. Steve and a horde of other reporters were there to cover it. The gathering was to be, quite possibly, though of course no one ever spoke it aloud, our swansong. I remember well the descention that everybody felt when we were all finally together. It had been building for quite sometime. Tim Maloney and Jerry Olsen from Winnipeg were sadly attempting to rally everyone to arms and the rest of us were just not having anymore of it. We were tired, no, we were "beyond" tired of all of Tim's "for-the-camera" antics and other horseshit. So with the cameras taping away, Tim and Jerry took to the stage along with the leaders of all of the other organizations that were represented. Tim exchanged a few words with Richard (lastname? Sorry.) of the National Council Of Churches, and Henry Schwartzchild from the ACLU. He then turned to us and called for and motioned us up to join everyone on stage. It was if some ceremonial show of comradery were about to begin. What it's purpose was to be was beyond us, it would be token indeed. The war was over and we, the draft resistance groups, and the MIA Movement were just about the only ones who refused to believe it. So we all just stood there staring at Tim. He looked like a lost child. For a moment I almost felt sorry for him. Heads turned our way. Cameras turned our way. No one spoke...none of us had anything left to say. Larry, from Vancouver, slowly made his way to join Tim. Dick and Dan and I just looked at one another. I wanted nothing to do with it. Our days were over and we all knew it rather we chose to admit it or not. I do recall the moment seeming a bit surrealistic at times. I wasn't on drugs, I assure you, however I was somewhat hungover from the milkrun train trip I had made the night before. I had literally stayed up all night drinking bourbon with a Canadain Customs Agent and a RCMP Officer who was on his way to his sister's wedding in Alberta. It was the highlight of the trip. Perhaps it was my way of preparing for the next day. Anyway, the conference is "technically" under way, there's a speaker at the podium, the cameras are taping full speed and suddenly Dick is no longer with Dan and I. We looked to the forum on stage and there's Dick arguing full throttle with Tim, right in front of everybody. Arguing about the moment at hand and arguing about our funding being cut. One of the National Council Of Churches people is trying to get the cameras turned off. One of the guys from the Vancouver Council jumps into the verbal melee...Dan had disappeared. I just stood off to the side and watched. Steve Young and I managed to make eye contact at one point, he just shrugged and shook his head. Looking back to the stage I took one last look at all of their faces, then I left. I never saw any of those people ever again. I walked down the street a ways, sat down on a bench and smoked a cigarette. I looked up and Steve Young was standing there. He sat down beside me and we talked. No cameras, no lights, no bullshit. We just talked, personally...about how noble an experiment it had all been. About how much good had come of it, about how many otherwise lost souls it might have saved. We also both agreed that it's time had come and went. It was over. The draft was over, the war was over, amnesties and pardons had been granted and the need for us was over too. All there was left for us to do was to sweep up a little, turn out the lights and leave everything in place for the next war.