LIFT THE 2-YEAR BAN ON ALISON BODINE!
Alison Bodine 10,000 Petition Campaign
Alison Bodine Defence Committee Gains Momentum in Defending Democratic and Human Rights
By Nita Palmer
November 17th 2007, marked the beginning of a two-year ban from Canada for Vancouver anti-war and social justice activist Alison Bodine – and the opening of a new phase in a major campaign in her defence!
Alison Bodine, 22, a US citizen originally from Broomfield, Colorado and a recent graduate of the University of British Columbia. She is currently a co-chair and spokesperson for the Vancouver anti-war coalition Mobilization Against War and Occupation (MAWO) and is also a social justice and Cuba solidarity activist.
Canada Border Services Agency Violates Civil Liberties
On September 13th Alison was arrested when she attempted to legally cross the border from Canada back into the US at the Peace Arch border crossing. Three days earlier, as she was coming into Canada, she was targeted and harassed by border officials after they searched her vehicle and found various political materials and progressive newspapers. After being questioned extensively by border officials, she complied with their request that she voluntarily return to the US. When she returned to the border later that same day, she was legally allowed to enter Canada. To reduce harassment by border officials, she had transferred the political materials and other items into the car of a friend from Vancouver. He legally returned to Canada, but the political materials and all other items in his car were seized. A receipt was issued, saying that Alison could return to the border within 40 days to pick up these items.
As she was returning to the US on September 13th Alison attempted to claim these items. Upon presenting the receipt to claim the materials, she was arrested, handcuffed and told there was a Canada-wide warrant for her arrest. She was then transferred to detention.
Working People Fight Back! The Birth & Growth of the Defence Campaign
This unjust arrest and imprisonment was met by a major campaign by the Committee to Free Alison Bodine, formed immediately after her arrest. On September 14th on just five hours notice, over 80 people rallied at the Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) building in downtown Vancouver to demand her release. Following this rally, as well as major local and national media coverage, a major victory came in the campaign. Although Alison had been told repeatedly that she would be detained at least until her immigration hearing on Monday September 17th she was released at 8pm on Friday September 14th. She then joined over 65 activists who had come together in an emergency meeting to organize for her release.
The focus of the campaign then became the demand for the Canada Border Services Agency to drop all charges against Alison. The newly-formed Alison Bodine Defence Committee (ABDC) started a major political campaign. On one hand, this included a petition campaign demanding that all charges against Alison be dropped, as well as an appeal for letters of support to be sent to the CBSA and Minister of Public Safety, Stockwell Day. On the other hand, it included dozens of forums, rallies, and other public speaking events to raise awareness about the case. The Alison Bodine Defence Committee blog was also launched at http://alisonbodine.blogspot.com.
Just a few hours before her scheduled admissibility hearing on September 17th Alison was informed by a CBC reporter that her hearing had been cancelled for that day. When she presented herself at the CBSA offices the next day with dozens of her supporters rallying outside, she was informed that the CBSA had requested a delay in the hearing until September 28th. It was clear that the CBSA’s manoeuvre to cancel the hearing was their desperate attempt to take away momentum from the massive campaign that had come together in her defence. They knew they had no proof for the charge of “misrepresentation” they held against her.
Over the next weeks, the ABDC organized consistent rallies in front of CIC offices and launched the Alison Bodine Speaks Out! Campus Speaking Tour. By September 28th the campaign had received dozens more letters and over 1,200 signatures of support.
As of September 28th Alison and her lawyer still had not received the disclosure of evidence that would be used against her by the CBSA. A new victory came as it was ruled that the CBSA had to give a full disclosure of their evidence. As a result of this new evidence, the hearing was postponed until October 11th.
In three weeks alone, the “Drop All Charges Against Alison Bodine” petition gained over 3,000 signatures of support. The campaign of events also continued, with Alison speaking at the “Student Week in Solidarity with the Cuban 5” and at a forum called “Why I Was Targeted: CBSA Violates Civil Liberties”.
With a strong crowd of supporters rallying outside, Alison entered her hearing on October 11th to win another partial victory. During the hearing the prosecution tried to introduce new evidence that was not included in their disclosure. This was denied by the adjudicator. In admissibility hearings, if the adjudicator is not convinced of the argument by the defence it is typical for an immediate exclusion order to be issued, forcing the defendant to leave the country within a few hours. It was clear that the prosecution had a weak case when the adjudicator announced that the final decision would not be heard until October 31st.
By October 31st the Alison Bodine Defence Committee received dozens of letters of support from organizations and individuals such as the Green Party USA, the Canadian Union of Postal Workers, the Hospital Employees’ Union, NDP MPs Bill Siksay, Alex Atamanenko, and Libby Davies, the North American Baptist Peace Fellowship, and Seattle Act Now to Stop War and End Racism (ANSWER), just to name a few.
The ABDC used the next 20 days to continue to build the campaign in defence of Alison. By October 31st the ABDC collected over 3,000 signatures demanding that the CBSA drop charges against Alison. The campaign gained another victory when the BC Civil Liberties Association announced that they had decided to support Alison’s case.
October 31st-November 17th: Support Continues to Grow…
On October 31st with over 60 of her supporters gathered outside and with the 3,000 ABDC petitions in her hands, Alison received the Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB) decision in her case. After reviewing the case, the adjudicator announced that although he found the CBSA’s actions in initially turning Alison away from Canada “bewildering”, the charge of “misrepresentation” would be upheld. An exclusion order, effective November 17th 2007, and a two-year ban from Canada were imposed.
But the ABDC was not stopped or silenced by this decision. Alison and her supporters vowed that the defence campaign and the struggle for human and democratic rights for social justice activists and for all immigrants, refugees and non-status people in Canada would continue. Within the next days, the outcome of Alison’s case was picked up by the Globe and Mail, the Canadian Press, and the Associated Press (AP). The AP article was published on MSNBC, one of the largest online news sources in the US. Within 24 hours, supporters were already sending letters demanding that the 2-year ban against Alison be lifted.
The ABDC launched a new petition with the demand of “Lift the 2-Year Ban!” This petition first hit the streets with a petition stop at the Vancouver Art Gallery on November 10th. Later that evening, the ABDC held a successful fundraiser at El Rancho Restaurant in Vancouver, featuring many local musicians as well as the film “Defend Alison Bodine: Social Justice Activist Under Attack!”
On November 13th over 40 people gathered at the SFU Harbour Centre in Vancouver to participate in a public forum on Alison’s case, “Why is Canada Banning Antiwar Activists? The Case of Alison Bodine”. “The Canada Border Services Agency may have decided to impose this ban against me, but our campaign for human and democratic rights has just begun and will only continue and expand from here,” Alison explained.
The campaign made another huge step forward on November 16th when delegates at the BC Provincial Convention of the New Democratic Party (NDP) passed a resolution that Alison speak about her case to the convention. Alison spoke to the nearly 1,000 delegates in attendance at the convention, including MPs and MLAs from across BC. Following her speech, Alison received a standing ovation and collected over 100 signed letters of support demanding that the ban against her be lifted.
November 17th Border Send-Off!
Despite appeals for an extension of Alison’s stay in Canada, the exclusion order against Alison took effect November 17th. However, the Alison Bodine Defence Committee had a message for the CBSA before Alison’s departure from Canada: They may be able to impose this ban against a single person, an individual – but they cannot stop the massive tide of support for her and for the fight for human and democratic rights. Near midnight on November 17th, nearly 70 of Alison’s supporters gathered at the border to see her off. The unjust decision to ban Alison was once again brought to people across Canada, with CBC TV and CKNW radio covering her departure.
Lift the 2-Year Ban! 10, 000 Signature Campaign
Following Alison’s departure, the ABDC’s dual political and legal campaign entered a new phase, with the goal of collecting 10,000 signatures of support on the petition demanding “Lift the 2-Year Ban!” Letters and petitions are directed to Immigration Minister Diane Finley, who has the power to lift the ban at any time. On the legal front, the ABDC has begun the process of applying for a judicial review of the case in federal court.
The Alison Bodine Defence Committee has held three major petition stops so far. The first, at the University of British Columbia on November 27th collected 155 signatures from Alison’s former schoolmates, demanding that the ban against her be lifted. The ABDC hit the streets again on December 1st at the Vancouver Art Gallery, collecting nearly 150 signatures in an hour, despite cold and snowy weather. The most recent petition drive, at the Vancouver Public Library on December 8th collected 431 signatures from Vancouverites. Another recent victory in Alison’s case was the resolution passed by the national convention of the Canadian Federation of Students to support Alison’s case.
The campaign has continued south of the 49th Parallel as well. On December 3rd Alison spoke at an event organized by the Seattle chapter of the anti-war group International ANSWER. The campaign has received media attention in the US also, with Alison’s case being covered by US National Public Radio (NPR).
Onward to Victory! The Struggle Continues!
Alison has been banned from Canada not because she has violated any laws or is a threat to anyone. She has been banned from Canada for expressing political views that do not match up with those of the government of Canada, particularly their policies of war and occupation in Afghanistan. She has been banned from Canada because, as a person without status in Canada, she was easy to target. They thought she might be easy to silence – and to use as an example for immigrants, refugees and working people to say: this is what will happen if you stand up for your ideas and your rights.
Alison is not alone – since her arrest, there have been a number of other similar cases. Just three weeks after her arrest, two organizers from CODEPink Women for Peace were barred from Canada because of FBI records for civil disobedience. US soldiers who come to Canada because they refuse to fight in the war in Iraq have been targeted as well. An outspoken social justice activist and organizer within the Montreal Muslim community, Imam Jaziri was recently deported to Tunisia after facing charges of misrepresentation by Canada Border Services.
But the Alison Bodine Defence Committee and people across North America have met this attack on our democratic and human rights with a strong message for the Government of Canada: we will not cave in to your attempts to silence anti-war and social justice activists. It is critical that we build a strong movement now to defend our human and democratic rights while they are under attack in order to maintain and advance them. It is critical that we take action to defend the antiwar movement that we have built in order to advance the struggle for social justice in the future.
The Alison Bodine Defence Committee is calling on all those who defend human and democratic rights to get involved in this important campaign. For information and updates on upcoming events and actions, check out the blog at http://alisonbodine.blogspot.com. Send a support letter, sign a petition, get involved!
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