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Sammy Davis Jr. talks to draft dodgers in Canada

The Story

The war in Vietnam has brought an unprecedented migration north to Canada - young American men who have left home to avoid mandatory military service. These "draft dodgers" are the subject of intense debate on both sides of the border. Among those on their side is entertainer Sammy Davis Jr. In this 1968 CBC-TV clip, Davis speaks to draft dodgers about their experiences in Canada. Davis, in Toronto for two weeks of performances, is a guest on CBC's The Way It Is because of his opposition to the Vietnam War.

After asking him about his stance on playing for the troops, interviewer Barbara Frum tells Davis: "When you came to Toronto you expressed a desire to, in fact, meet some draft dodgers and they've brought some draft dodgers to the studio to talk to you." Davis greets the two men with enthusiasm. "What's happening here for you guys?" asks Davis. "Is it comfortable?" Davis and the resisters discuss the momentous spiritual and emotional challenges the draft dodgers face. He also tells them about the political and emotional climate back home. Extreme attitudes and loyalties would make it impossible for them to cope in the United States, he says. "You just don't get a chance to talk about these things at home," Davis says sadly.

Medium: Television
Program: The Way It Is
Broadcast Date: March 17, 1968
Guests: Dominic Covey, Sammy Davis Jr., Gene Friotte
Host: Warren Davis, John Saywell
Interviewer: Sylvia Fraser, Barbara Frum
Duration: 10:03

Did You know?

• "I don't agree with Vietnam. But then again I don't agree with any war," Davis told reporters on March 11, 1968, as he began a series of shows in Toronto. "None of our top black artists have gone there so far - although so many of our black brothers are fighting in Vietnam. I keep wondering why they're there, doing what they're doing. But I don't prove anything by not going over myself, making their hell a little easier to live with."

• Born in 1925, Sammy Davis Jr. began singing and dancing as a young boy, performing and touring with his father's vaudeville outfit.

• At age 18, he was drafted into the military and served in the Second World War. There he came to understand the full extent of the discrimination experienced by African-Americans at the time.

• Davis went on to become a huge star and solo performer, recording over 40 albums and starring in several movies and on Broadway.

• In this clip, Davis says he intends to perform for the troops. True to his word, he played to a large group at Long Binh, Vietnam in February 1972.

• Davis died of throat cancer on May 16, 1990.

• Draft dodgers first began coming to Canada in 1964. Because Canada classified them as landed immigrants when they entered the country, and they were not required to specify whether they were fleeing the draft, their exact numbers are unknown.

• Immigration and Citizenship Canada estimates that between 30,000 and 40,000 draft dodgers and deserters were admitted into Canada over the course of the conflict.

• Between 1963 and 1974, over 206,000 men were referred to U.S. Attorneys for prosecution for draft law violations. From this total, close to 10,000 men were arrested and convicted.

• Four thousand men were captured and prosecuted for desertion in relation to the Vietnam War.


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