Wednesday, January 2

dispatch: from the northern border

Two Colorado Springs-based anti-nuclear activists were recently denied entry to Canada for "crimes" of civil disobedience in the U.S. I came to know of Mary Sprunger-Froese's work during my time at the Colorado Springs Independent, where she performed her one-woman show for the staff a couple of years ago. She's involved in First Strike Theater and belongs to a peace community that faces one of the most hostile audiences, and police departments, in the state.

The following selection is taken verbatim from an email Mary sent recently:

On Dec. 29 at the Regway border entry in Montana/Saskatchewan, Mary Sprunger-Froese was denied entry into Canada because of criminal convictions for nonviolent protests of nuclear war-making.

Stopping at the border checkpoint, we told the border official our reason for the trip. We would celebrate a late Christmas with Peter's parents and family, and would attend his brother's wedding New Year's Eve. After submitting our passports and ID's to the border official, Peter and I waited some time until she returned.

“An immigration agent needs to talk to you.”

“Who, me?” I asked, uncomprehending.

I followed her inside to a small room and a phone. She handed me the phone and left me alone in the room.

A young woman’s voice asked my name. The immigration agent on the phone proceeded to interrogate me about my personal information, vocation, work history and employers, money available by credit card. She then asked if I had ever been convicted of a criminal offense. I told her yes. She asked for details. I told her the offenses were for nonviolent protest against nuclear war-making — in the spirit of Thoreau’s civil disobedience, or Gandhi’s civil resistance. I gave her the details I knew, explaining that years ago I submitted this information, documented, to the Colorado Dept. of Education, who then issued me a teacher’s license.

She continued to press for more detail. Prayer at Rocky Flats — ‘trespass’. ‘Criminal mischief’ — blood-pouring at Martin Marietta’s MX lab — offering our blood rather than shedding blood. As a Christian, I felt responsibility to do what I could to stop war-making. (Amid the disembodied phone voice and this stunning surreal surprise, the nudge to explain the why of these offenses prompted my elaborating.)

The immigration agent informed me I was 'inadmissible' into Canada. If my offenses had a parallel under Canadian law, I was not allowed into the country. Why had I never heard of this? (My last conviction was in 1986).

She quoted section 36.(b)(2) of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act: "a foreign national is inadmissible on grounds of criminality for having been convicted outside Canada of an offence that, if committed in Canada, would constitute an indictable offence under an Act of Parliament, or of two offences not arising out of a single occurrence that, if committed in Canada, would constitute offences under an Act of Parliament". (She faxed a copy of this statute at my request). ...

We turned around and headed for the US. This was the biggest turnaround we've experienced in 30 years of celebrating our international family.

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