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Canada Bars Entry to US Peacemakers: Let's Pressure Canadian Government to Change its Policies

October 4, 2007:  Ann Wright, retired U.S. army colonel and former diplomat who quit in opposition to the Iraq war, and Medea Benjamin, co-founder of CODEPINK and founding director of Global Exchange, tested Canada's policy towards US peace activists on Thursday. They were on their way to Toronto at the invitation of the Toronto Stop the War Coalition but were denied entry into Canada due to previous arrests for demonstrating against the Iraq War outside the White House and in the Capitol. Their names have been added to FBI's National Crime Information Center (NCIC) database that apparently dictates Canadian border policy. The border agents at the Rainbow Bridge at Niagara Falls who barred Medea and Ann said the mere fact that they were listed on the NCIC was sufficient to bar them from entry.

“This is outrageous. I'm appealing to Canadians not to treat peaceful activists like common criminals. I travel all over the world on a regular basis and Canada is the first country to use the NCIC to keep out people like us,” said Medea.

Her sentiments were echoed by NDP MP Olivia Chow, who represents the Toronto riding of Trinity-Spadina. She said it was “absurd” to bar entry to anti-war activists. “These are not terrorists; why do we have to protect Canadians from them? We should not be allowing the FBI or Mr. Bush to dictate our entry policy.”

"I am alarmed to learn that Canadian border police are enforcing rules that have been determined by the FBI and other U.S.-based agencies," Chow wrote to Stephen Brereton, Canada's consul general in Buffalo, N.Y. "In Canada, peaceful protest is not a criminal activity, despite how some U.S. agencies may regard it."

Both Ann and Medea have previously visited Canada for anti-war meetings, sometimes at the invitation of Canadian activist groups or political parties. As recently as August, Medea had been admitted into Canada without problem.

Ann, meantime, was allowed into Canada on a three-day temporary visa in August to protests talks between Prime Minister Stephen Harper and President George W. Bush on the Security and Prosperity Partnership.

"First, the FBI should not have put us on that list," Ann told a news conference Thursday outside the Canadian Embassy. "And secondly, the Canadian government should not be doing the dirty political intimidation work for the Bush administration by using that database."

"Canada is the first country, to our knowledge, that is using this beefed-up database of the FBI as its criteria for judging who enter, which is why we consider this so outrageous and dangerous," said Medea. "If Canada starts to do this and keeps out people like us, maybe other countries will do it as well. We think it's important to stop this right away."

Using Canada's criteria, even civil rights leader Martin Luther King wouldn't have made it into the country, she said. "We think this is absurd. It's outrageous. It must be reversed."

"While we are fighting with our own FBI to get these offences off the list, we hope that friends in Canada will push the immigration service to start using common sense and to allow us back in."

Recent Messages of Support:

Letter of Invitation from Canadian Parliamentarians

Dear Sir / Madam,

The undersigned Members of Parliament confirm that they have extended an invitation to Col. Ann Wright (ret.) and Medea Benjamin to speak on Parliament Hill on Thursday, October 25, 2007.

Ms. Benjamin and Col. Wright have traveled to Canada on numerous occasions in the past, and were denied entry to Canada at a Niagara Falls border crossing on October 3, 2007.

Ms Benjamin is co-founder of Code Pink, a respected American women's peace organization. Ret. Colonel Wright provided 31 years of distinguished service in the US Army, followed by a 14 year career in the US diplomatic corps. Both are respected leaders in the US peace movement.

We the undersigned Members of Parliament affirm our belief that Ms. Benjamin and Colonel Wright do not pose a security risk to Canada, or Canadians. We welcome their presence in Canada, and look forward to their participation to speak on issues of peace, security and human rights on Parliament Hill.

Attached you will find an invitation for the panel event to which they have been invited to speak, entitled: 'Peacebuilders Without Borders: Challenging the Post- 9/11 Canada-US Security Agenda.'


Olivia Chow, MP
NDP Citizenship & Immigration Critic
Penny Priddy, MP
NDP Public Safety Critic
Paul Dewar, MP
Foreign Affairs Critic
Alexa McDonough, MP
NDP Peace Advocate
Libby Davies, MP
NDP House Leader
Dawn Black, MP
NDP Defence Critic

Reed Writes: An Open Letter to Mr. Paul Steckle,MP, Ottawa, Canada

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Related News Articles:

US peace activist barred again from entering Canada, International Herald Tribune, October 25, 2007

Peace activists denied entry to try again, KAREN MATTHEWS, Globe & Mail, October 24, 2007

Oh, Canada, don't forsake the peacemakers, MEDEA BENJAMIN, Special to Globe & Mail, October 24, 2007

Peace activists to test U.S.-Canada border policy again, International Herald Tribune, October 23, 2007

Barred U.S. peace activists plan to enter Canada again to meet MPs, Beth Gorham, THE CANADIAN PRESS, October 23, 2007

Bay Area activist barred from Canada
CODEPINK founder was headed to peace conference in Toronto
, By Bill Brand, October 23, 2007

Canadian Voice of Women for Peace Statement on the Border Detainment of Medea Benjamin and Ann Wright, VOW, October 11, 2007.

CODEPINK Activists Refused Entry to Canada, Ms. Magazine, October 10, 2007.

So this is what it means to be free in America, Edomonton Sun, October 7, 3007

Give peaceniks a break, EDITORIAL, Toronto STAR, October 6, 2007

American Peace Activists Denied Entry to Canada After Appearing on FBI Databases, Democracy NOW interview with Amy Goodman, October 5, 2007

U.S. peace activists say Canada setting dangerous precedent keeping them out, Canadian Press, October 5, 2007

American peace activists stalled at Canada-U.S. border, By Sheldon Alberts, CanWest News Service, October 05, 2007

Decision to bar U.S. activists draws fire, By PAUL KORING, Globe and Mail, October 5, 2007

`Absurd' to bar entry, U.S. activists say, By Nicholas Keung, Toronto STAR, October 5, 2007

U.S. peace activists stopped at border, By Sheldon Alberts, National POST, October 05, 2007

U.S. peace activists barred from entry into Canada, CBC, October 05, 2007

Letter to U.S. Consul General on behalf of US peace activists denied entry into Canada, from Olvia Chow, Member of Parliament, October 4, 3007

CODEPINK Press Release: Canada Refuses Entry to CODEPINK Cofounder Medea Benjamin and Retired Colonel Ann Wright, October 04, 2007

Other Links:

The Horrors of 'Extraordinary Rendition', By Maher Arar, October 27, 2006

Are You on the Government's 'No Fly' List? By Naomi Wolf, September 13, 2007.

Americanizing the Restriction of Canadians' Rights—
Security overtaking trade as driver of "deep integration"
, By by Maureen Webb, Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, April 1, 2006