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posted September 2015

Bringing Draft Dodgers to Canada in the 1960s: The Reality Behind the Romance

by Mark Satin

Several lifetimes ago, my “job,” calling, and passion was bringing American draft dodgers to Canada.

In April 1967, as a 20-yratr-old American Vietnam War resister in Toronto, I was named head of the Student Union for Peace Action’s Anti-Draft Programme; and after SUPA disbanded that September I co-founded and became first director of the Toronto Anti-Draft Programme (TADP).

SUPA was Canada’s premier New Left political organization in the 1960s, with interests ranging from community organizing to foreign policy.  Its Anti-Draft Programme had been established in 1965 to handle inquiries from young Americans interested in immigrating to Canada as an alternative to serving in the U.S. military.

At first the Programme lagged behind independent anti-draft groups in Vancouver and Montreal – for example, Vancouver produced the best how-to-immigrate leaflet, and Montreal established the first draft-dodger hostel.  However, under my direction the Programme’s capacities and visibility rapidly expanded.  By late 1967 the reconstituted TADP had become Canada’s (not to mention the world’s) largest pre-immigration counseling and post-immigration assistance organization for U.S. draft resisters and military deserters.

Long, quasi-sympathetic articles in newspapers like the Toronto Star, the Los Angeles Times, and The New York Times made our efforts sound positively heroic.

This article is about the reality behind the romance.  It is about TADP’s efforts (heroic and otherwise), but it is also about what happens when there’s a lack of empathic personal, cultural, and political connection within even the most “idealistic” social change organizations.  It is about the stubborn realities of human nature.  It is about Life.

And there’s even a bibliography at the end.


A.  The gathering storm

When the Programme’s board hired me in the spring of 1967 (it had been making do with a very part time letter-answerer since late 1966), they didn’t really know what they were getting.  I looked and sounded like a dedicated 20-year-old activist, and I certainly was that, civil rights volunteeer for the Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) in Mississippi, president of a chapter of Students for a Democratic Society, etc.

But I was also a natural-born American social entrepreneur, in love with the likes of Ben Franklin, Tom Paine, and William Lloyd Garrison, and within a few months I’d turned the Programme from a rather pokey entity averaging fewer than three inquirers per day, into one of the most visible, energetic, and effective organizations in the anti-war movement, averaging well over 50 phone calls, letters, and visitors per day through the last 10 months of my tine there.

I also conceived, wrote, and edited for TADP the Manual for Draft-Age Immigrants to Canada (Toronto: House of Anansi Press, 1968) and helped turn it into a huge bestseller; both the Toronto Globe and Mail and the Toronto Star have reported that nearly 100,000 copies were distributed overall.

Alas, as in many social change groups of that era, things were not as rosy as they seemed.

The Programme’s board consisted largely of socialists and pacifists.  I considered myself post-socialist and situational-pacifist.

The board felt deeply conflicted (to put it mildly) whenever heroes of theirs such as Tom Hayden of SDS, Stokely Carmichael of SNCC, and folksinger Joan Baez urged draft resisters to go to jail or go “underground” in the U.S., rather than immigrate to Canada.  Two board members actually opposed printing the Manual because of SDS’s opposition to Canadian immigration; one of them characterized SDS as our “vanguard” organization whose positions we were duty-bound to follow.  I deeply felt and vociferously argued that a mass movement of young Americans to Canada could help end the war – and anyway, I couldn’t have cared less what the political left wanted me and the resisters I nurtured to do with our lives.

Finally, and perhaps most crucially, the Canadians on the board mistrusted what they called “rabble-rousing,” and feared it could get the border shut down.  I believed that in order to reach ordinary young Americans (i.e., the kinds of kids I grew up with in Moorhead MN and Wichita Falls TX), we had an obligation to make ourselves as visible as possible.

In addition, I thought the board’s concern about the border was a vestige of far-left paranoia.  Most war resisters were middle class, reasonably well educated, moderately ambitious, preternaturally sincere, and eminently employable, and Canadians welcomed us wholeheartedly, a beautiful thing.  They even seemed to enjoy tweaking the Americans over the draft dodger issue (even as they continued shipping war supplies to the U.S.).

Thus the stage was set for an ongoing battle, behind the scenes, between the board and me; and it never let up.  Here is an alphabet soup of the things I said or did that managed to baffle, offend, outrage, or alienate board members:



1. Job definition

a. My insistence that we provide help to military deserters and not just draft resisters (the board feared this could get us in trouble with the Canadian government);

b. My insistence on turning the office into a warm and welcoming environment, with couches, sleeping bags, a wall-size Canadian flag, a floor-to-ceiling peace symbol made of exiles’ draft cards, and a hotplate (the board did not want me to encourage people to “hang out.”  One board member was especially incensed about the hotplate.  “It feels like a soup kitchen!” he shouted at a board meeting, his arms waving wildly.  I had to work hard to stifle my laughter);

c. My insistence on devoting as many resources to post-immigration assistance as to pre-immigration counseling (before I changed the culture, that was not their m.o.  One board member, a former SUPA draft counselor, liked to say we shouldn’t be “baby sitters” for draft resisters.  Another board member explained her attitude this way: “Americans are like little children.  You can’t always be holding their hands”);

d. My plea that the board hire a professional bookkeeper (all I knew how to do in those days was keep a primitive list of income and outgo.  The board agreed to “try” to obtain one but never managed to do so during my tenure there.  It was much more energized by my unauthorized “takeover” of unused space in the SUPA building beginning the week two television crews were scheduled to interview me.  One board member and SUPA employee called me a “little imperialist,” to the general delight of the board);

e. My proposal that we encourage the formation of a visible and vibrant neighborhood of “American exiles” in Toronto, the better to telegraph our existence and our message to the folks back home and to the international community (this proposal, which I made the week before I was hired, almost killed my chances of employment.  As one board member put it, “We want draft resisters to just fade into the Canadian woodwork!”  A couple of years later, a so-called “American exile ghetto” did emerge around Beverley Street near the University of Toronto);

f. My unabashed encouragement of the formation of a political organization for war resisters (it too sprang up in due course, as the Union of American Exiles, “Amex” for short);

2. Job performance

g. My working the same number of hours each week that young top-tier journalists and lawyers did, and do (polar opposite of “movement hours” – especially in the 1960s!);

h. My allowing some of the most problematic war resisters to sleep in the office, such as an underage girl, a guy who’d driven up in an ice cream truck filled with dead rabbits floating in formaldehyde, and a poorly trained dog named Watts;

i. My writing at least a couple of personalized sentences to nearly everyone that wrote us, even when our literature and form letters appeared to answer every question they might have;

j. My sending form letters to 500 U.S. radio stations asking to be on their talk shows (a great way to reach ordinary Americans, I argued; but board members saw it as shameless self-promotion.  They also worried that it might tempt The Authorities to Crack Down.  Wasn’t the underground press enough?);

k. My sending what was, in effect, a five-page direct-mail fund-raising letter, something I’d never seen or even heard of before, to a random sample of 50 people on our 400-person mailing list (no matter that it raised $2,000, over $14,000 in today’s dollars – “I’ve never seen anything like this before!” one board member roared at me after charging into our office, which was full of guys waiting to be counseled.  “Who cares about your background?  Or what goes through the minds of these kids at night? ...  Who do you think you are?”  It would be another decade before the North American left began making use of emotionally resonant direct-mail);

3. Manual

l. My going ahead and writing the Manual even after I’d been told, at a board meeting, that our flimsy and woefully inadequate little brochure was quite enough and that a more substantial publication could get the border shut down, and us shut down;

m. My inviting board members to come to the office and review the final draft of the manuscript (their response was eloquent: not one of them showed up);

n. My sending unsolicited review copies of the Manual to hundreds of journalists and 2,000 draft counselors across North America (supposedly another Mark Satin ego trip);

o. My imploring the board to print 30,000 copies of the second edition, given that 12,000 copies were already on back order and that a major Canadian printer who’d heard me speak at a church had promised to do one, and only one, print run for me, on super-modern machinery, at a bargain-basement price (in the end I was lucky to get the board to agree to a print run of 20,000.  If you’re wondering why the once-ubiquitous second edition looks less like a movement publication than a government one, with semi-gloss paper and an exquisite typeface, well ...);

4. media

p. My incessant use of the mainstream Toronto and U.S. media to publicize our existence and our work – for examples, see page one of The Globe and Mail for October 11, 1967, and page seven of The New York Times for February 11, 1968);

q, My comfort level with mainstream reporters (in those days, the far left was extremely wary of the press.  A SUPA staff member once told me, “Mark, the Globe and Mail and the CBC are the enemy!”);

r. My willingness to say what I thought and felt to those reporters, rather than regurgitate talking points to them; 

s. My conviction that, in the U.S. media, even negative publicity was good publicity, since it let guys know where to go for help;

t. My eagerness to take public issue with pacifist and left-wing opposition to draft resisters immigrating to Canada;

u. My attempt, in a New York Times Magazine article, to put some distance between the Anti-Draft Programme and the far-left forces within SUPA;

5. (Even more) uppity behaviors

v. My leading a long procession of war resisters to a “love-in” on the University of Toronto campus, then conducting a marriage ceremony there for a hippie-looking war-resister couple (you can see the once “controversial” Globe and Mail photo of their embrace opposite page 201 in Canadian historian Pierre Berton’s book 1967: The Last Good Year, published in 1997);

w. My reimbursing myself, after the Manual had generated thousands of dollars, for $324 that I’d personally spent on office supplies and on unreturned loans to destitute war resisters – all documented – over a nine-month period;

x. My moving in with one of Toronto’s most visible radical feminists, a 27-year-old former SUPA staffer and critic of the organization named Heather Dean (for more on Heather, see Gary Dunford, “Heather Dean Doesn’t Like the Way YOU Live,” Toronto Star, July 1, 1967, special “Second Century” section, p. 71);

y. My entering the premises of one of SUPA’s successor organizations, the New Left Committee, through a window at 9:15 in the morning to use a mimeograph machine that I was authorized to use (and inadvertently breaking the window... not very smart);

z. My attempt to reconstitute the board, after SUPA collapsed, so it would include fewer political radicals and more representatives of mainstream Canadian society – specifically, a co-founder of House of Anansi Press (publisher of the Manual and of Margaret Atwood); a Toronto entrepreneur; an ally at the Canadian Department of Manpower and Immigration; a renowned Canadian historian; and an attorney rather than a law student.  All five had contributed guest pieces to the second edition of the Manual (the board threatened to sue my counseling partner and me if we carried out our plan.  They meant it, too.  They’d have probably lost, but they’d have pulled the Programme down with them; so we had no choice but to give in).



By now I’m sure you get the picture.  It was a culture clash.  Within weeks, I had become a personification for the board of Amerikan arrogance and overreach and irresponsibility; and they had become, for me, a personification of Canadian timidity, under-reach, stodginess, fearfulness-coupled-with-resentment, and refusal to dream big dreams.

It was also a generational clash – I was the only true Baby Boomer among them.  It was the supercilious fathers and mothers against the rebellious son.  Except in this case, the fathers and mothers were the ones with the hyper-left-wing politics.  (Our most “conservative” board member once began a board meeting by reading, only half-humorously, from a devotional – the Little Red Book of Chairman Mao.)

Every night when I’d walk home (and it was often close to midnight), draft dodgers’ confidences and words of appreciation would be ringing in my ears – and I’d feel the Sword of Damocles hanging over my head because of the smoldering disapproval and resentment of most of the board members.

I knew my place at the Programme couldn’t, and wouldn’t, last much longer, and my “solution” was to devote myself ever more completely to caring for the exiles, sometimes even bringing them home with me (which Heather rarely appreciated!).  I was indifferent to many board members’ romantic heroes – Fidel Castro, Mao Zedong, Louis Riel – but I did absolutely feel like one of my own boyhood heroes, Holden Caulfield (of J. D. Salinger’s novel Catcher in the Rye), standing on the edge of a rye field and catching all the young people before they fell off the cliff and did irreparable damage to their lives ... and to Vietnamese lives.

The end, when it finally came in May 1968, was uglier than I’d imagined.  (Remember, I was only 21 and a product of kindly small towns in the American Midwest.)  I was fired at a board meeting for ridiculously trumped-up reasons – the only one they really meant was “arrogance” (their word).  The two board members who voted to keep me were the only ones who’d actually worked with me, my counseling partner and the head of our job-finding service.

One member of the board, a married Trotskyite who’d spent years trying to bed the woman I’d moved in with, vowed to erase me from the organization’s memory (several board members nodding their heads in stern approval), and within a few weeks thousands of letters that I’d answered or caused to be answered, many with my notes jotted on them, “mysteriously” disappeared from our office, never to resurface.

A rumor was started that I’d quit TADP because of “burnout.”  In addition, my name was removed from the title page of most future editions of the Manual, and a rumor was started that I was only the nominal author or that I’d based it on SUPA’s earlier work.  Those tall tales diminish academic books and articles to this day (see, e.g., the Churchill and Hagan texts below).

Although I’d left all my drafts of the Manual behind in carefully-marked manila file folders, along with my ruthless edits of the guest chapters I’d solicited and comments on the manuscript from nine draft counselors across North America, “somehow” none of that material made it into TADP’s historical file at the University of Toronto library, the Jack Pocock Memorial Collection, named after a radical Quaker activist who was the second person on our board who vowed to fire me.  That was in September 1967 – just after I’d appeared on the cover of a glossy Canadian magazine.  His wife, the keeper of the file, was the first, in May 1967 – three days after I’d been pictured and profiled in a long article in The New York Times Magazine.

Given all that, I was, and remain, remarkably unbitter.  We did help stop the war, and that was the main thing.  In the fall I moved to Vancouver and started “The Last Resort,” a 50-bed-and-pallet hostel for draft dodgers and military deserters.  By the early 1970s I’d begun work on a book called New Age Politics: Healing Self and Society.  It was eventually published in Canada, the U.S., Sweden, and Germany.

I know, now, that I was partly at fault for what happened between the board and me.  In those first years of my adult life I lacked the personal and social skills to communicate well with the kinds of people that were on the board – not to mention the patience; though it might have helped if even one of them had tried to honestly communicate with me.

It must have been difficult for them to watch me, a small, woefully undereducated Amerikan kid with unkempt hair and torn clothes, get myself and the Programme into the Toronto Star at least 10 times, while the causes they deeply cared about often failed to get the coverage they deserved.  (The Programme fell completely off the Star’s radar screen after I was fired.)

It hurt me, more than I knew at the time, that not one board member ever thanked me for writing the Manual – even after it was clear that the Manual would be helping to support their efforts for years to come.

I did appreciate, and continue to appreciate, the lesson in human nature that the board inadvertently taught me – that no matter how “noble” our politics, we are all still and shall forever remain the deeply flawed creatures of the Old Testament.  In fact, for reasons only novelists can fully explain – Dostoevsky, Silone, Orwell, Solzhenitsyn, others – the Seven Deadly Sins may be most prevalent among those whose politics are most “noble.”  (Or try my Jungian friend Connie Zweig’s anthology Meeting the Shadow.)

There were other lessons too, but I leave it to you to figure them out.  If you are a young idealist, you will need them for your journey.



Adams, James.  “‘The Big Guys Keep Being Surprised By Us.’”  The Globe and Mail (Toronto), October 20, 2007, p. R6.  Includes House of Anansi’s sales figures for the Manual.

Berton, Pierre.  1967: The Last Good Year.  Toronto: Doubleday Canada, 1997, pp. 197–203. 

Burns, John.  Deaf to the Draft: Called in U.S., but Asleep in Toronto.”  The Globe and Mail (Toronto), October 11, 1967, pp. 1, 2.

Churchill, David S.  “An Ambiguous Welcome: Vietnam Draft Resistance, the Canadian State, and Cold War Containment.”  Histoire Sociale / Social History, vol. 37, no. 73 (2004), pp. 6–9.

Clausen, Oliver.  “Boys Without a Country.”  The New York Times Magazine, May 21, 1967, pp. 25 and 96–98.

Cowan, Edward.  “Expatriate Draft Evaders Prepare Manual on How to Immigrate to Canada.”  The New York Times, February 11, 1968, p. 7.

Dunford, Gary.  “Toronto’s Anti-Draft Office Jammed; Korea, New Viet Attacks Said Cause.”  Toronto Star, February 3, 1968, p. 25.

Editorial.  “Don’t Incite U.S. Draft Dodgers.”  Toronto Star, January 30, 1968, p. 6.

Erland, Anastasia.  “Faces of Conscience, I: Mark Satin, Draft Dodger.”  Saturday Night magazine (Canada), September 1967, pp. 21–23. Cover story.

Hagan, John.  Northern Passage: American Vietnam War Resisters in Canada.  Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press, 2001.

Hluchy, Patricia.  “1968 Was a Tumultuous Year of Protest in Cities Around the World.”  Toronto Star, June 1, 2008, p. 6.  Includes estimate of Manual sales.

Hurst, Lynda.  “A Picture and a Thousand Words.”  Toronto Star, August 24, 2008, “Ideas” section, p. 8.  Satin in 2008.

Jones, Joseph.  “The House of Anansi’s Singular Bestseller.”  Canadian Notes & Queries, issue no. 61, spring–summer 2002, pp. 19–21.

Kasinsky, Renée G.  Refugees from Militarism: Draft-Age Americans in Canada.  New Brunswick NJ: Transaction Books, 1976.

Maffre, John.  “Draft Dodgers Conduct Own Anti-U.S. Underground War from Canadian Sanctuary.”  The Washington Post, January 22, 1967, p. E1.

McCurdy, Glenn.  “The American Draft Resisters in Canada.”  Chicago Tribune, March 10, 1968, pp. F26, F70.

McRae, Earl.  “U.S. Draft Dodgers in Toronto: Safe – and Lonely.”  Toronto Star, August 5, 1967, p. 8. 

Palmer, Bryan D.  Canada’s 1960s: The Ironies of Identity in a Rebellious Era.  Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2008, pp. 256 – 309.  SUPA and its context.

Rosenthal, Harry F.  “Canada Increasingly Draft Dodgers’ Haven.”  Los Angeles Times, June 2, 1968, p. H19.

Satin. Mark, ed.  Manual for Draft-Age Immigrants to Canada.  Toronto: House of Anansi Press, 1968.

Schreiber, Jan.  “Canada’s Haven for Draft Dodgers.”  The Progressive magazine, January 1968, pp. 34–36.

Wakefield, Dan.  “Supernation at Peace and War.”  The Atlantic Monthly, March 1968, pp. 42–46.

Williams, Roger Neville.  The New Exiles: American War Resisters in Canada.  New York: Liveright Publishers, 1970.




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