Day by Day

Thursday, September 30, 2004

Draft Dodger Monument update

City Blocks Memorial to Draft Dodgers

VANCOUVER, British Columbia (Reuters) - A Canadian community has blocked plans for a controversial memorial to Americans who fled to Canada to avoid the Vietnam War and U.S. military draft, officials said on Wednesday.

Peace activists wanted to build the memorial as part of a reunion celebration scheduled for 2006 in Nelson, a small city in the mountains of southeastern British Columbia, where many of the Vietnam-era draft dodgers eventually settled.

The proposal was denounced by the U.S. Veterans of Foreign Wars, and came as the issue of service in the military during Vietnam has become an emotional flashpoint in the U.S. presidential campaign.

Nelson's council passed a special resolution on Wednesday that would requires any memorial using public funds or being built on public lands to have "widespread community support."

"The Our Way Home monument does not meet this standard," the council said in a press release.

The veterans group and other U.S. critics of the plan had asked the White House to intervene, and threatened to organize an economic boycott of the Nelson area in the Kootenay Region, which has a significant tourism industry.

The Our Way Home group had already told city officials it was willing to locate the bronze sculpture somewhere else, but still planned to hold the peace gathering in July 2006.

The group said it wanted to honor both the U.S. citizens who moved to Canada, rather than serve in a war they politically opposed, and the Canadians who helped them build lives in a new country.

It has been estimated that 125,000 Americans fled to Canada to avoid Vietnam and prosecution under U.S. law, although about half returned home after President Jimmy Carter granted amnesty in 1997.

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