Muhammad Ali, draft resistors, loss of US citizenship, the “Rumble In The Jungle” and a trip down memory lane

Introduction – RIP Muhammad Ali

Like many I was saddened to learn of the death of Muhammad Ali. (One of my profitable ventures was betting on Ali in his 1974 fight with Foreman.) Most of the media discussion of Ali’s death focused on his boxing career. There was far less attention paid to Ali’s refusal to accept induction into the U.S. military. This refusal led to his being stripped of his boxing license (why anyone would need a license to box is beyond me) and interestingly the revocation of his U.S. passport (if you can’t box in America we will prevent you from boxing outside America). Hmmm, does that passport revocation remind you of any recent events or any past events?

Ali made the reasonable point that he was being asked to go to Viet Nam to defend the rights of the South Vietnamese people who were being denied their rights, at the same time that Black Americans were denied their rights in America. Muhammad Ali provided inspiration to Dr. Martin Luther King. Fast forward to 2016: President Clinton (a man who also avoided military service in Viet Nam) will deliver one of the eulogies (I hope he mentions the “draft resistor” aspect of Ali’s life).

Draft Resistors in Canada in the 60s and 70s – The use of “citizenship” as a mechanism to control the people

During the last few years I have met many former Americans who came to Canada to escape service in the Viet Nam war. Their circumstances vary greatly. This was clearly a tumultuous time and difficult time. Many of them have commented that it has similarities to the circumstances of today. In both the 70s and present day, certain Americans abroad and former Americans abroad, feel uneasy and unsure about their U.S. citizenship. It’s also interesting how in both cases the United States is using “citizenship” as a mechanism to exercise control over individuals who do not live in the United States. In the 70s the United States was punishing people by stripping them of their citizenship. In 2016 the United States is punishing people by imposing citizenship on them. Either way, it’s clear that “citizenship” (and a U.S. place of birth) is a powerful weapon to be used against people to achieve governmental objectives.

The War Resistor Information Program …

From 1974 – 1976, Winnipeg native, Don Marks ran a “War Resistor Information Program” for Americans in Canada. Information from Wikipedia includes:

Marks was once a street youth before being adopted by a First Nations family. From 1974 to 1976, he was co-ordinator of the War Resister Information Program in Winnipeg, providing assistance for Americans who moved to Canada to avoid service in the Vietnam War.[1] Marks gained notoriety during a North American wide media tour to publicize WRIP’s activities and by leading a class action lawsuit against President Gerald Ford. Don worked with such notables as Hunter S. Thompson, Jane Fonda, Richard Dreyfuss, Bella Abzug and others to organize an amnesty for war resistors, He was a candidate for the Manitoba Liberal Party in the 1977 provincial election, and received 769 votes (15.63%) for a third-place finish in Point Douglas. He was a weekend news and sports anchor at CKND-TV during the mid-1980s. He died in Winnipeg at the age of 62 on January 30, 2016 from liver disease.

Mr. Mark’s “War Resistor Information Program” may have been an “early day” equivalent to the Isaac Brock Society. In any event, Mr. Mark’s published what appears to be a very high quality publication providing information and advice to American draft resistors. Here is one of the publications which Mr. Marks described as:

… one of the most important efforts that we have undertaken in our seven years of service to war resistors in exile. Besides an update on our program and a description of the latest legal and political developments that affect you, we shall include our position on amnesty, and POSITIVE actions to bring about our goal.

I encourage you to read the publication which is here:

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Mr. Mark’s also printed the following flyer:

Notice the fourth point: “We do have information on U.S. exclusion orders that do result if you take out Canadian citizenship.”

The “War Resistor’s” bulletin contains a fascinating section beginning on page 11 which is titled:

“CANADIAN CITIZENSHIP AND EXCLUSION ORDERS”

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Then and now: the “dusting off of old laws”

We see that in 1975 and in 2016 the United States:

– was using the treat of denial of entry into the United States as a form of punishment. Is this an earlier version of the Reed amendment?

– was using the principle of “dusting off old laws”. Modern day examples of “dusting off old laws” would the the FBAR Fundraiser and the PFIC rules.

Then and now: the use of “citizenship” as a weapon

Mr. Mark’s  bulletin is of particular interest because it reflects the understanding of what was happening in 1975.

The bulletin confirms the following two points:

1. Americans in Canada who became Canadian citizens absolutely understood that the consequences of becoming a Canadian citizen would result in the loss of U.S. citizenship. If one understands the consequences of an action prior to voluntarily undertaking that action, it’s reasonable to say that the person intended the consequence. In other words: those Americans who naturalized as Canadian citizens in the 70s clearly intended to relinquish their U.S. citizenship; and

2. The U.S. Government took the clear and unequivocal position that those who naturalized as Canadian citizens had relinquished their U.S. citizenship (that was the basis for the exclusion order described in Mr. Mark’s bulletin).

Note that the loss of U.S. citizenship was happening WITHOUT the issuance of a CLN (“Certificate of Loss of Nationality”).

Yet, in 2016 there are some who argue that: those who clearly ceased to be U.S. citizens in the 70s, and don’t have a CLN, somehow are now U.S. citizens for the purposes.

This idea seems ridiculous to me! The war resistors didn’t need a CLN then. They don’t need a CLN now.

John Richardson