Today, December 5th, is International Volunteer Day. International Volunteer Day was designated by the United Nations in 1985 as an international observance day to celebrate the power and potential of volunteerism.
This year dedicated DA Canada volunteers have shown their power and potential in many ways.
Democrats Abroad is 100% volunteer run, we could not do any of our great work without you. We are very proud and grateful for the dedication and time that our volunteers contribute.
In 2018, through street festivals, rallies, pop-up events, and phone-banking, across Canada hundreds of volunteers contributed over a thousand hours of time to support GOTV. The GOTV Campaign Office in Toronto was a unique opportunity for us to see volunteers in action. We were amazed by the dedication, skill and enthusiasm of the volunteers who made this office a success!
We overcame insurmountable odds and your hard work made an impact on many historic Democrat victories. You helped to flip the House Blue!
There are some outstanding volunteers who we would like to give some special recognition for going above and beyond this year to get out the vote!
Debra Lazar was nominated by her chapter. She is a long time member of Democrats Abroad and has been critical helping to organize chapter activities. Thank you Debra!
Cameron Mitchell was nominated by his chapter. Cameron stepped forward and filled a critical role as a bilingual media contact. He also created and led a successful “Constitution Day and Citizenship Day” media event. We are grateful that he worked so hard to get out the word that Americans in Canada can vote in the US elections!
Riley Nielson-Baker was nominated as an outstanding volunteer by their chapter for helping to get out the student vote this year. Riley is a university student and has worked hard to get Democrats Abroad visible on campus. Thank you Riley!
Danielle Stampley was nominated by her chapter. Danielle's leadership, knowledge and caring personality make her and an invaluable member of her chapter. We are grateful that even with her busy schedule she can give so much time to DA.
Michael Stevenson was nominated by the GOTV Team for his outstanding dedication to phone-banking. Michael made thousands of calls and had 1422 conversations with members during this year’s election!
Tracy Hudson was nominated by DA Canada IT. Tracy has dedicated many hours as our national Facebook Page Administrator. Her amazing work on our page has been praised by the DA international social media team.
Tracy was also nominated by her chapter as a skilled communicator who ensures all chapter events are posted and promoted to members. She is a talented photographer, her photos are regularly published in local media promoting Democrats Abroad. Tracy also was the co-lead for a voters information table at the American Women’s club.
Phone-banking is the most effective way Democrats Abroad can reach out to Americans living overseas to get out the vote! The following are volunteers who went the extra mile this year, and their incredible GOTV conversation totals!
Stephanie Perry 964
Mari Rutka 774
Lorraine Scott 720
Allenna Leonard 481
Janette McCabe 379
Melek Ortabasi 357
Elizabeth Shropshire 340
Kenneth Sherman 339
Carol Donohue 313
Erin Campeau 281
Letitia O’Connell 259
Nargess Khosrowshahi 248
Reg Charney 247
Beverly Wellman 235
Carol Ricker Wilson 212
On this International Volunteer Day, the leadership of Democrats Abroad Canada wishes to extend their heartfelt gratitude to all of our volunteers. Your efforts truly helped in making the difference in these midterm elections.
Director of Volunteers DA Canada
This urgent message is for members who vote from Florida, Georgia or Arizona – Please take a moment to read on to ensure your vote was counted. It’ll take a few minutes of your time but it’s crucial to take action now or risk allowing the Republicans to take your vote away.
Over the past several election cycles, the votes received by Democrats Abroad voters has delivered the numerical difference to victory in one to two close races; e.g. MN, NY, CT, NV. This time it’s overseas voters from FL, GA and AZ who have the ability to truly play a role in victory – every vote does count!
The stakes are high and the numbers are close - if every vote is counted Stacey Abrams, Andrew Gillum, Bill Nelson and Kyrsten Sinema could see victory at the end.
The Democrats Abroad GOTV Team has put together crucial information to help you contact your voting county immediately to make sure your vote is being recognized and counted. If your ballot has not been counted or cannot be found, follow the following steps outlined below. The tight race in Arizona has not only highlighted the value of our votes from abroad, but also highlighted how much we need to do to help protect those votes and ensure they are counted.
In GA, FL and AZ, the GOP is actively working to avoid counting absentee ballots.
To help ensure that our votes are counted, we are working with state voter protection teams and have rolled out the following process to help you PROTECT YOUR RIGHT TO VOTE..
1. We are sending emails to voters in each state with information walking them through checking on the status of their ballots.
2. If a ballot has not been counted, we are asking Florida and Georgia voters to fill out a form which we are sharing directly with the voter protection teams in their states. We are asking Arizona voters to get in touch with their local election offices immediately to ensure they have all the information they need to verify their ballots, and then to reach out to us if they have further problems.
Here is the information, by State:
Please contact your local Chapter or email email@example.com for additional assistance.
GOTV Coordinator, Canada
Every Jew who attends any Jewish activity experiences the worry that something like what happened at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh last weekend could happen at any time. Hateful rhetoric and gun manufacturers have made it clear that these kinds of atrocities--hate crimes--can happen in the United States.
Extremists want to blame the Jewish people for bringing it upon themselves, but we know that is not true. The NRA and their accomplices on the Right in Congress, the Supreme Court and certain presidents have made sure that as MSNBC's Lawrence O’Donnell puts it, "the U.S. has the best armed mass murderers in the world.”
And it’s more likely to happen in the atmosphere of racial resentment fostered by the current administration. Unfortunately, prejudice against people of color and Jews come hand in hand. As somebody who had to pass swastika painted walls on the way to Hebrew school in Philadelphia, I am grateful that at least here in Canada individuals harboring this kind of hatred and prejudice are unlikely to have an AR-15.
However, our work to combat hate and racism and promote equity and equality is never done. We in Democrats Abroad are working to create an environment in which atrocities like the Tree of Life shooting in Pittsburgh are less likely to happen. Thank you for all you are doing to support that mission. It is so important.
Co Vice Chair
Democrats Abroad Canada
Don’t let the Canada Post rotating strikes keep you from returning your ballot. Below are a few suggestions on how you can submit your ballot outside of the Canada Post system, however you need to act quickly.
If you can return your ballot electronically (email, fax or online upload), we urge you to do so! 28 states permit fax returns and 23 of those permit email so don't presume it's not an option.
If your state only allows fax return [AK, FL, CA, LA (with special permission) and OK] and you don’t have access to a fax machine, there are free apps that will convert an email attachment to a fax.
Or you can use the DoD Fax service through the Federal Voting Assistance Program (FVAP.gov). Email your ballot, any required supporting materials and a cover sheet (see: http://www.fvap.gov/uploads/FVAP/Forms/coversheet.pdf) to firstname.lastname@example.org. FVAP will then fax your election materials to your Local Election Officials. (This option is ONLY to use their email-to-fax service, if your state accepts email ballot return, just email to your state directly.)
If you must mail your ballot, consider using an overnight service. Or, if you're close to the US Embassy or Consulate, ask if they are accepting ballots to place in the diplomatic pouch. You can contact them here: http://ca.usembassy.gov/u-s-citizen-services/voting
It will be taken to the US and placed in the US mail, so be sure to ask how long they anticipate it will take to get to your ballot to your election office--there can be a significant time lag! Check the date your mailed ballot must get to your state here: www.votefromabroad.org/vote/svid.htm?submission=true.
We’ve checked with the Toronto Consulate and they are accepting ballots, as most should. Their diplomatic pouch ships to New York on Tuesdays, so if you drop off your ballot by Monday Oct. 29th it’ll have a good chance of arriving at your local election office in time.
If you choose to take your ballot to the US Embassy or Consulate you must either have USPS postage (envelopes entering the USPS system with Canada Post stamps won’t be delivered) or you must use the postage-paid envelope available at this link (http://www.fvap.gov/uploads/FVAP/Forms/fwab_envelope.pdf). You have two options, you can either print an envelope or print it on a sheet then cut out and place on top of a blank envelope.
Finally, if you plan to go to the US to mail your ballot, please contact your Local Election Official first to confirm your ballot will be accepted if mailed from within the US. You can find the contact information here: http://VoteFromAbroad.org/states". If you mail your ballot within the U.S. you must put your out-of-country address in the return address area – follow the directions that came with your ballot.
We appreciate that some of these options take more effort than usual. Democrats Abroad has delivered the numerical difference in several close elections and our votes are needed now more than ever. These strikes are occurring at the worst time for Democratic voters in Canada – please don’t let Canada Post be an obstacle to helping deliver the blue wave!
Chair, Democrats Abroad Canada
Democrats Abroad Canada has been approached by campaigns in critical swing districts in border-states asking for volunteers willing to travel help on the ground in a number of ways. The need is especially great on the weekend of Nov 2nd-4th and on election day, Nov 6.
While we’ve had dozens of volunteers across Canada phone-banking Americans living abroad, our proximity to the border states provides a unique opportunity among our diaspora in that most of us can travel relatively short distances to participate on the ground to possibly tip the balance in certain very tight races.
Here are comments from someone working with Danny O’Connor who came within 1,600 votes in the special election in Ohio’s 12th District and is running again:
We have moved onto organizing Get Out The Vote canvass parties across the state with a focus on the last weekend before the election, although we have events every weekend. Lining up volunteers from in state and out of state as well as places for people to stay. In addition, we have phone banks set up but boots on ground is focus. This election is going to be won by whoever gets the base plus the tiny group of independents who usually stay home off the couch.
Due to liability risks, Dems Abroad can’t officially organize car trips to the States. However, we know that several people are planning to travel to critical swing districts over the next couple of weeks to volunteer in campaigns. Dems Abroad will collect information for those who would like to join one of these trips. We will then share the information with those who indicated a specific canvassing opportunity and the campaign coordinator in the district. At that point it’ll be up to the group to coordinate activities.
The comments about the opportunities in Ohio’s 12th District are representative of what’s available if you’re wanting to get more involved.
To indicate your interest please click here and complete the form. We plan to distribute group details by Oct. 26th to coordinate plans. You’ll see 3 specific districts who are seeking volunteers however if you have another district you’re planning to travel to or would like to volunteer for, you can indicate that on the form.
Chair, Democrats Abroad Canada
Join the team in making sure we vote them out! We are phoning Democrats in Flippable states - our votes can be the difference!
July 24 2018
In its Vietnam War history project, Democrats Abroad Toronto is gathering the stories and personal reflections of members who moved to Canada from the United States in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Links to these stories can be found below and we will update this article as meetings happen and stories are added.
The motivations for these moves were often related in some way to the social upheaval caused by U.S. involvement in the war in Vietnam.
Ken Sherman discusses his anti-war activism in an interview with him that appears under the News tab on the Democrats Abroad Canada website. Ken has held a number of roles in DA, including that of International Chair. He is currently the chair of the Hamilton chapter and a member of the Democratic National Committee. Click here to read the article: Views from Canada: Apocalypse Then - Looking Back at the Vietnam War after Half a Century.
Long time DA volunteer, Beverly Fay looks back on her family’s move from the U.S. to Canada in 1969. Click here to read the article: A Cross Border Journey
We realize that not everyone who has a story about the era is comfortable sharing it authored. This story was submitted with the ask that it be posted anonymously. We are honored to share "A hard decision to defy the draft" with you.
**New story added Setp 24, 2018** A Momentous Border Crossing
The project has had two meetings up to now, in late April and late May. Planning is now under way for a public meeting in the fall.
Many Americans who came to Canada put down roots in the country and became permanent residents. At the same time, they remained loyal to their identities as Americans and never lost their hope that the U.S. would fully realize the belief of its founders that "all men are created equal."
Half a century after the eruption of the Vietnam War as major conflict, members of Democrats Abroad want to talk about ways to gather some of the stories of those who came to Canada during that period. We want to do the gathering in a way that reveals events and motives, but at the same time protects the privacy of the story tellers. There are two purposes for this initiative: to develop a record of our personal and political lives, and to discover the contemporary relevance of resistance to the Vietnam War and other wars.
If you would like more information about this project, please contact Virginia Smith at email@example.com
Below is a list of articles in the order that they were posted. You can click on each link to read each article.
A Cross Border Journey (Beverly Fay)
A hard decision to defy the draft (Anonymous)
A Momentous Border Crossing (Anonymous)
by: Virginia Smith Feb 13 2018
Many members of Democrats Abroad Canada arrived in Canada during the Vietnam War era, from the late 1960s to the early 1970s. A number of them, including Ken Sherman, were involved in efforts to stop the conflict.
Ken Sherman is the chair of DA Canada’s Hamilton – Burlington chapter and a member of the Democratic National Committee. He has also served as the global chair of Democrats Abroad and the chair of Democrats Abroad Canada.
Ken first became involved in anti-war efforts as a member of Clergy Concerned About Vietnam. He was a founder of the Draft Counselling Centre in Buffalo, New York, and was jailed at least seven times for his resistance activities. He was landed in Canada in 1996 and became a dual citizen soon after.
Ken started spending time in Canada in the early 1970s when his wife, a French national, started living in Ontario. At that time, he helped many Americans to find a place in Canada. After President Jimmy Carter’s amnesty for draft resisters was enacted, Ken drove a friend back to the U.S. The border crossing was publicized on national television as the first return home of an American after the amnesty.
DA Canada recently asked Ken to share some of his reflections about that tumultuous era.
● Tell us about a couple of the ways the Vietnam War changed your life.
The war made me a political activist. I and others began using the electoral system to raise issues to end the Vietnam War and redirect its resources to the urban infrastructure. I ran as a peace candidate for Buffalo City Council in 1969. I worked to support peace candidates in the 1968, 1972, and 1976 Federal elections. In the end, it was Congress that ended the war by not funding it.
The war also made me aware of the role of globalization. My wife to be was a French citizen who moved to Canada. She was looking for progressive politics that matched her views for world peace. We worked out an interpersonal relationship across borders and cultures to raise three children. I think about 90% of the Americans who came to Canada did so for similar reasons of love.
The movement of so many Americans at that time into Canada also changed the Canadian cultural environment and Canadian society.
● How did the war affect your commitment to your responsibilities as an American?
The global context of the Vietnam War woke me up to the situation in the Americas. I learned of the realities of U.S. imperialism in Central America / Nicaragua, for instance, and later in Afghanistan. I did coffee picking in Nicaragua in 1984 as part of a peace delegation. I realized then that the U.S. economic engine must have a war to feed its military machine.
Before he left office, President Carter warned that the battles of the future would be focused on the petroleum economy. I organized an energy coop in 1976 as energy conservation was becoming the new political framework. I supervised a staff of ten insulating inner city homes.
At the time of the first Iraq war in 1990, there was a movement to boycott the use of gasoline. I joined a peace demonstration to oppose the invasion. After, I turned to riding my bicycle where I could. My bicycle slipped on ice when returning from church one Sunday, and I broke my hip. I had to have three pins put into my hip. They remind me of the futility of that war.
● What has been the ongoing impact of the Vietnam War on U.S. political life?
The war taught me the key role that grassroots political organizing has on social change. Those who have come through the anti-war experience make up much of the progressive base of the Democratic Party today. They form a bloc that has been mobilized by the progressive wing of the party in response to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
There is now a permanent anti-war movement. The church-based and other political groups that came together in a movement continue to be funded and have support.
This movement is much more diverse now though. Such was noticeable recently in the assembly at the Washington Women’s March the day after the inauguration of President Trump. Everyone’s cause was on display at this march with great joy. The march was so full of love and respect. The movement to end the Vietnam War was composed largely of liberals and the college left.
I was so proud to be a Canadian and an American at the Women’s March.
● Are there similarities between the activism of the 1960s and today’s activism?
It is still true that social change comes through grassroots and political organizing. There is no social change without grassroots organizing.
● Is U.S. society as polarized now as it was then?
Yes, the country is as polarized now as it was in the 1960s. The war was wound down when the most people realized that there was no redemption in continued fighting and no victory to be won. Right now, Middle America is propping up Donald Trump. Political activism is again needed to mobilize the grassroots citizenry.
● What action is needed right now?
The progressive sector of the Democratic Party needs to focus on getting out the vote for the 2018 mid-term elections. We need to turn back the Republican Party from any more gains accomplished by gerrymandering districts in advance of the next U.S. census.
June 18, 2018
A cross-border journey
By Beverly Fay
I personally did not know anyone who went to Vietnam, but my husband and I and our three children did host a number of American draft dodgers who arrived in Toronto during the Vietnam War. The Toronto Anti-Draft Program (TADP – I used to call it “Tadpole”) came into being in the late 1960s. Since we had been protesting the Vietnam War in the Boston MA area, we gravitated to that group when we immigrated to Toronto on November 8, 1969.
During our first trip to Toronto in August, 1969, to visit my husband’s brother, who was attending the University of Toronto, we investigated the possibility of transferring within my husband’s company from Boston to Toronto. With our three children, at that time in grades one, two, and three, we drove a U-haul filled with our belongings, including a bowl of goldfish, to the Canadian border. Since we had arranged for the transfer, rented out our home, and said our “goodbyes,” it seemed like the thing to DO. Determined as we were, we did not even take the exit on the NY Thruway that day in 1969, when we could have gone to Woodstock instead of to Toronto. In August, we visited our sites and, after our stay with my husband’s brother’s family, we rushed back home to plan our return by November 8, the date of my birthday. At the border, the Canadian agent proclaimed: “We have a landing! We have a landing!” They also gave us little slips of paper; mine is still in my wallet.
As we settled into our rented home in Mississauga, we continued to support efforts against the war, especially by accepting the draft dodgers who were more and more arriving from the U.S. I remember one couple who arrived on our doorstep in the middle of a winter storm with only a black garbage bag filled with their belongings. I’m pretty sure that they said that they were fromGeorgia. They stayed with us for a couple of weeks until more permanent arrangements could be made. Years later, I met a lawyer who had been one of the thousands who came across the border during those times. He then went to school at Dalhousie in Nova Scotia. He said that coming to Canada had been the best thing that he had ever done. As a family, we did what we could to end the war. I’ve read that approximately 50,000 Americans came to Canada during the Vietnam War. “If everyone would light just one little candle…”
I met Ken Sherman when there were only about five of us on the Democrats Abroad Toronto board of directors group. At that time, he had already spearheaded efforts that today have so magnificently evolved. When we handed out literature outside a Bill Maher show at Copps Coliseum in Hamilton, he was costumed as Uncle Sam, and I was the Statue of Liberty. Bill used the “f” word in his show many times, but he was still hilarious. I went on to become a Canadian in 1986, and I hold two current passports. I and my three children are citizens of both countries, as are my two grandchildren. I am able to vote in both countries, and I DO!
In the 1990s, I got involved in demonstrations in Maine, specifically, at Bath Iron Works in Brunswick where Aegis destroyers are built – they launch nuclear warheads. Philip Berrigan spent time in jail because of those activities and was put on trial. I remember that a high-profile lawyer came from the Hague to defend him, but the lawyer was not allowed into the courthouse. I became motivated to engage again in anti-war work because of a friend of mine who knew Mr. Berrigan. My later anti-war work was against the Iraq War. As a New Englander born in New Hampshire, I still believe in this motto: “Live free or die.” As Ken Sherman recently told an interviewer: “It is still true that social change comes through grassroots and political organizing.”
In the biography I wrote for the 50th anniversary of my graduation from Laconia High School, I said: “In other locations (such as Boston in the 1960s, Portland and Bath, Maine, in the 1990s, and Orangeville, Toronto, and Hamilton, Ontario, in the 2000s, she might have been seen demonstrating for peace. That work includes promoting absentee voter registration of Americans worldwide.”
In 1969, I was a University of Toronto student sharing a house in the Kensington Market area of Toronto with other students. All of us were Americans. I was not yet a landed immigrant in Canada, but I soon became landed. The Vietnam War was shaking up our lives in very unpleasant ways, and we believed – implicitly most of the time – that little short of a revolution could restore our lives to a state of domestic tranquility. The world was developing in ways that made it unlike the comfortable milieu we had seen in shows like Leave it to Beaver and Father Knows Best. What if it turned out that Father didn’t know anything?
The rich colours and flavours of the Kensington Market ensured that our lives were full of colors and a variety of rich flavors, and, most of the time, I enjoyed the neighborhood and did not worry a lot about the turbulence of the wider world. There were wonderful Portuguese and Jewish bakeries like Permutter’s and Lottman’s and lavishly supplied cheese emporiums on Kensington Ave. Grossman’s Tavern served as a local beverage house. The transformation of Baldwin St. into an interesting cultural center, which would happen because of initiatives by U.S. draft dodgers and their friends, had not yet occurred. There were still shows at the Victory Burlesque at the corner of Spadina and Dundas. I went once myself because, even though I was a woman who supported “women’s lib” (as it was often called then), my consciousness was still not really raised.
For a while, we provided temporary housing for draft resisters and people who had left the U.S. armed forces (usually referred to as “deserters”). We did not talk very much about whether provision of housing to people we never met before was a good idea. We just took it for granted that this was an action that people living in Toronto should take. Most of the people we housed were deserters, not draft resisters. We didn’t talk much to the people who stayed with us. They were quiet and cooperative, and moved on within days. An RCMP officer did come to our house once because he wanted to talk to one of our guests, and I found this occurrence quite alarming. Nothing negative happened to our guest or to us as a result of the visit, however.
One of the residents of the house was a draft resister. My friend did not have to uproot himself and move across the border when he was drafted because he was already a student in Canada when he was drafted. His situation was easier than the plight of many draft resisters who had to make an abrupt move. Still, his decision was not at all easy because he had to turn down an attractive offer from a U.S. graduate school. He had to give up the idea of going home to see his parents across the border. Any idea he might have had about a bright professional future had to be shelved, at least temporarily, and reshaped at a later date.
Then there came an occasion when he felt that he had to cross the border to see his family. He borrowed someone’s ID to cross the border. At the time, borrowing ID did not seem a crazy or impossible step, though of course it would be now. Most people of our age had had some experience of borrowing ID to purchase alcoholic beverages, and using ID to cross the border did not seem very different, though of course it was completely different! I believed that it was very unlikely that anything could go wrong. As it turned out, I was mistaken. His father ended up driving him back to Canada very quickly when his family members got the impression that inquiries were being made.
As I reflect on this experience now, a couple of insights occur to me. One is that the people who crossed the border were courageous. Draft resisters, whose only previous infractions may have been high school demerits and traffic tickets, made the choice to become law breakers. This choice drastically changed the course of their lives, at least for a while. Many draft resisters and deserters settled permanently in Canada and developed rewarding personal and professional lives. Their resistance has become a distant bump on the horizon as they look back on their lives. Still, it was a very big bump at the time.
As I look back, I am also surprised at how little people who resisted or deserted seemed to agonize about their decisions. I suppose that this ability to take swift action is one of the advantages of youth. We never asked ourselves: “Suppose this is a just war that can be won?” Maybe it is just as well that we did not ask the question, because it turned out that we were right that the Vietnam War was not a war that we should support.
The author of this story wishes to stay anonymous.