FROM VANCOUVER BC TO WASHINGTON DC, ANTIWAR & SOCIAL JUSTICE ACTIVISTS UNDER ATTACK!
Alison Bodine Defence Committee organizes actions in a broad campaign to defend the democratic and human rights of all social justice and antiwar activists!
By Kira Koshelanyk
What Happened to Alison Bodine? Harrassment, Detention, Deception & Frame-Up
Near midnight on Thursday September 13th 2007 Alison Bodine, a political organizer and social justice activist, was arrested by the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA). Alison Bodine, originally from Broomfield Colorado, is currently an Executive Committee member, Co-chair and spokesperson of the Vancouver antiwar coalition Mobilization Against War & Occupation (MAWO). Alison, a US-citizen, was arrested when she attempted to legally cross the border at Peace-Arch border crossing, traveling from Canada into the United States. Three days prior Alison was harassed by Canadian Border Guards while traveling from the US into Canada. The ordeal began after border officials searched her vehicle, and upon finding various political materials and progressive newspapers, identified her as a political organizer. After facing questioning, Alison was asked to voluntarily return to the US and she complied. Alison has traveled between the US and Canada on dozens of occasions and she had never been denied or asked to return to the US. When she returned to the border latter the same day she was legally allowed into Canada. To minimize harassment by border guards, she asked a close friend from Vancouver to come pick up political materials and other items that were in her vehicle. He legally returned to Canada, but the political materials and items were seized and a receipt issued stating Alison would be allowed to pick them up within 40 days. Alison returned to claim these items Thursday September 13th as she was returning to the US. Upon presenting the receipt to claim the materials, she was handcuffed and told she was under arrest, and that a warrant had been issued for her arrest in Canada. She was then taken into detention.
This unjust imprisonment was met with a huge protest and organizing drive by the newly-formed Committee to Free Alison Bodine. On the afternoon of Friday September 14, on only 5 hours notice, 80 people came together at the Citizenship & Immigration Canada (CIC) building in Vancouver demanding the immediate release of Alison Bodine. Media was also quick to pick up this important case, which was covered locally and nationally by TV, radio, and newspapers.
Fast Response Brings First Campaign Victory
Following all of this, Alison’s status took a major turn. She was told all day that there was no way to release her from detention until at least Monday September 17th. However, at 8:00pm Friday evening, Alison was given notice by Immigration officials that she would be released from custody immediately until her Admissibility Hearing on Monday September 17th. Alison then joined the over 65 enthusiastic activists from a variety of organizations and political backgrounds who had met for an emergency meeting to organize for her release. The focus now became having all charges against her dropped immediately with a parallel focus of winning the Admissibility Hearing. The Alison Bodine Defence Committee (ABDC) sprang into action sending out appeals for support, beginning the legal defence, petition and media campaign and a massive outreach drive to progressive organizations and individuals across the US and Canada. The “Alison Speaks Out!” blog went online to broadcast and post all updates, upcoming actions and act as a center for information on the case.
CBSA Manoeuvres and the ABDC Response
On Monday, September 17th, in the early afternoon Alison learned from a CBC reporter that the CBSA had cancelled her Admissibility Hearing that had been scheduled for 2pm. Alison herself was never officially notified by CBSA. The next day, as supporters rallied outside the offices of the CBSA, Alison was told that her hearing had been rescheduled for September 28th.
The CBSA cancellation of Alison’s hearing was one of the first maneuvers to delay and attempt to take momentum away from the case because they knew they wouldn’t be able to prove the false charge of “misrepresentation” that they leveled against her. Already the ABDC had received letters of support to bolster her case from the Hospital Employees Union of BC, the International ANSWER Coalition – Seattle Chapter, the Filipino Canadian Youth Alliance, the President of the Calgary and District Labour Council, No One is Illegal – Toronto and the Iglesia San Romero de las Americas in New York City.
Major Campaign Launched: Drop All Charges Against Alison Bodine Now!
Throughout the ten days leading up to the September 28th hearing, the support for her case only grew stronger. Letters of support arrived from NDP MPs Libby Davies, Bill Siksay and Alex Atamanenko, MLA David Chudnovsky, the 55,000 member Canadian Union of Postal Workers, the Richmond NDP, the Federation of Post-Secondary Educators, Capilano Students Union, the US-based Interreligious Foundation for Community Organization, and the Green Party of the USA among many others. The ABDC launched a petition campaign demanding “Drop All Charges Against Alison Bodine!” and a schedule of consistent and ongoing defence rallies at the CIC building. The campaign strategy was to continue mobilizing while gathering together the broadest range of progressive forces in a united front in defence of Alison’s democratic and human rights, and by extension the rights of all activists, immigrants, refugees and non-status people.
On Saturday September 22nd, the ABDC organized the first of three citywide public forums on the case. Over 65 people attended to hear the speakers and participate in a discussion on the case. The following night, there was also a packed house at the legal defence fundraiser for Alison’s case.
On Monday September 24th, the ABDC launched the “Alison Speaks Out!” Campus Speaking tour. Forums and discussions were held at Simon Fraser University, the University of British Columbia, Capilano College, Langara College and University of Victoria. The tour was accompanied by petition drives on each campus collecting hundreds of signatures. The ABDC set a goal to collect at least 1,000 signatures on the petition by the next hearing date.
Early in the morning, September 28th 2007, Alison Bodine arrived at the CIC building in downtown Vancouver for her Admissibility Hearing. Alison was greeted by over 80 supporters when she arrived, as well as newspaper, radio and television reporters, from CBC news, Radio-Canada (in French), and 24 Hours newspaper among others. Before walking through the entrance of the building, Alison held up a thick stack of papers and announced that she was holding the more than 1,200 petition signatures of people demanding "Drop All Charges Against Alison Bodine!" - all of which were collected in less than one week!
When Alison entered her hearing on September 28th however, she and her lawyer still had not received full disclosure of the CBSA’s evidence in their case against her. Her lawyer requested this evidence, and it was ruled that the CBSA had to give Alison and her lawyer this disclosure – another important victory in Alison’s case! As a result of the introduction of new evidence, the hearing was adjourned until October 11th 2007.
September 28 - October 11: the campaign grows…
On October 1st the ABDC began the third week of an intense defence campaign with actions and events throughout Vancouver and in Victoria on Vancouver Island. Alison spoke again on university and college campuses as part of the "International Week of Solidarity with the 5 Cuban Heroes Held in US Jails” the 1st ever campus tour of events dedicated to the Cuban 5. The ABDC also held the third public forum on the case, “Why I Have Been Targeted: the CBSA violates Civil Liberties” on October 6th. A special guest speaker was Brad McCall, a US soldier who fled his military unit in the US in protest to being assigned to be deployed to the criminal occupation of Iraq. McCall was also arrested by the CBSA when he crossed into Canada on September 15th and faces the same charge of “misrepresentation” as Alison. He spoke about the action he took to resist the US war on the people of Iraq, how he was targeted because of this resistance and on his current struggle for refugee status in Canada.
In this third week of the campaign, on October 3rd, came the news of the case of two members of Code Pink Women for Peace, a nationwide US group of women organizing against the occupation of Iraq. These two women were traveling to Canada for a meeting organized by the Toronto Coalition to Stop the War and were denied entry at the border because of their records of social justice activism and civil disobedience. This case, alongside those of the US war resisters, reinforced that there is a concerted campaign against antiwar organizers from the US by the CBSA, trying to hamper cross-border cooperation by the antiwar movement. The two women from Code Pink were denied entry a second time, even after being invited to Canada by several MPs on October 25th.
October 11th Admissibility Hearing Brings Partial Victory
After another powerful defence rally and press conference on the steps of the CIC building began the day on October 11th, the day of Alison’s Admissibility Hearing. The ABDC also announced they had surpassed their latest goal to collect 2,000 petition signatures for Alison! Alison achieved another partial victory on this day. At the hearing the prosecution tried to introduce new evidence, not included in the full disclosure of the case given to Alison and her lawyer. This attempt to sneak in secret evidence against Alison was denied by the adjudicator. It was clear throughout the hearing that the adjudicator was not convinced by the prosecution’s arguments. The weakness of the prosecutions case was further exposed when the adjudicator announced that the final decision would not be released until October 31st.
The window of these 20 days gave the ABDC time to continue to build the campaign in defence of Alison and democratic and human rights of all social justice and antiwar activists. To continue to raise pressure on the CBSA and Immigration and Refugee Board, the ABDC announced that the petition to drop all charges against Alison would carry more than 3,000 signatures by the time the hearing re-convened for the adjudicator’s decision while continuing to organize actions and events.
The Struggle Continues!
After the October 11th Admissibility Hearing, the case of Alison Bodine has continued gaining support. After monitoring Alison's case since September 17th, the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association (BCCLA) decided to support Alison in her fight. The BCCLA linked Alison's case with the case of the Code Pink Women for Peace activists who were denied entry into Canada at the US/Canada border in October. The BCCLA support and the support of the dozens of other organizations has been a cornerstone of the strength of this campaign – broad-based unity in action in defence of democratic and human rights.
It was clear from the beginning that this case was not so simple – that Alison has been singled out for harassment, arrest, detention and this extended period of uncertainty and legal limbo for purely political reasons. The governments of the US and Canada are falling further and further into crisis in their wars and occupations in Iraq and Afghanistan. As a result, the war at home on immigrants, refugees, non-residents and especially those organizing and speaking out against war and occupation has been intensified. The attack on Alison has the same motivation as the CBSA attack on US war resisters and the two organizers of Code Pink Women for Peace. The CBSA is partaking in the attempt by the governments of Canada and the US to keep antiwar organizers from both sides of the border from uniting and working together to build a stronger movement against war and occupation. The September 15th arrest of 197 people at the International ANSWER demonstration in Washington DC is a further extension of this attack on antiwar and social justice activists. In order to advance the democratic and human rights of oppressed people, and defend the antiwar movement in order to build it for the future, we must defend these rights now while they are under attack.
The ABDC is repeating the call for all peace-loving and humanist people, all allies of oppressed people fighting for their rights to support this important campaign as it advances both legally and politically in the struggle for victory!
Visit the blog at http://alisonbodine.blogspot.com, send a support letter, get updates and get involved!
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