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Amnesty - but not for all

No one expected the Vietnam War to play out as it did. With thousands of young men fighting to the death overseas, another group of American sons fled their homeland and journeyed north to Canada. As the battle raged on and the antiwar movement divided the United States, draft dodgers and deserters struggled to forge new lives for themselves. Seeking sanctuary and the opportunity to make a difference, they changed their adopted country unquestionably. (Note: Some clips contain explicit language.)

In his first act as president, Jimmy Carter pardons those who peacefully evaded the draft by travelling abroad or failing to register. Military deserters, however, have not been included in the blanket pardon. In the two-tiered system, deserters can apply for a limited pardon to be reviewed on a case by case basis. CBC Radio's Barbara Frum talks to one frustrated military deserter who would like to go home again.
• In 1974, President Ford offered a partial amnesty for war resisters. Of the 350,000 eligible candidates, only 21,800 were granted clemency. Exile groups in Canada, Sweden, Britain and France boycotted the program. They particularly disliked the stringent process that required them to swear the oath of allegiance. This measure was particularly offensive because former president Richard Nixon, who was also pardoned under this umbrella package, was treated much easier despite his role in manipulating the democratic process in the Watergate affair.

• The blanket pardon allowed draft dodgers without criminal records or charges to come freely back into the country without having to go through a legal process. As such, no true figure exists of how many draft dodgers took advantage of the amnesty. It is estimated, however, that only 15 per cent of the evaders went back to the United States.
Medium: Radio
Program: As It Happens
Broadcast Date: Jan. 21, 1977
Guest(s): Jack Kalhoon
Host: Alan Maitland
Interviewer: Barbara Frum
Duration: 4:57

Last updated: January 24, 2012

Page consulted on December 5, 2013

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