War resisters' statue finds a home
The city of Nelson didn't want it, but the Doukhobor Village Museum in nearby Castlegar is happy to house a statue commemorating American draft dodgers and the Canadians who took them in.
The controversial statue will take up
residence at the Doukhobor Village
Museum in Castlegar. (CBC)
The nine-foot bronze statue, which is currently being made by artists in Nelson, will be unveiled this July at Our Way Home, a conference for Vietnam War resisters.
"It will be a reminder, a permanent reminder, of the thousands of Canadians who assisted those who came to Canada, as war resisters during the Vietnam War," Isaac Romano, the organizer of the reunion, said in an interview with CBC Radio.
The Our Way Home committee has conceived the statue as part of a fountain, with an arc of water arching over the figures.
Romano had originally asked Nelson to find a public place for the statue. Politicians in Nelson rejected the idea after an angry backlash from U.S. veterans' groups.
The veterans had threatened to boycott Nelson, saying Americans who evaded the draft deserved no honours.
The curator of the Doukhobor museum says the statue fits well with the pacifist traditions in Castlegar.
"This idea of Doukhoborism and pacifism is very, very deep into the heritage roots of this area," said Larry Ewashen.
"Because of that, I don't think there should be very much resistance against it."
Almost a century ago, thousands of Doukhobors settled in the Castlegar region near the Kootenays after burning their weapons and leaving Russia.
The museum tells the story of their settlement in the region, beginning in 1908, and presents the Doukhobor lifestyle with thousands of artifacts displayed in a village setting.
About 125,000 Americans came to Canada during the 1960s and 1970s because of their resistance to the Vietnam War. Many draft evaders sought sanctuary in British Columbia.
The issue of was recently back in the news when an American soldier applied for refugee status in Canada to avoid serving in Iraq.
The Our Way Home reunion takes place July 6-9 in Nelson with a program of workshops and social events.