Record of Civil Resistance Keeps U.S. Activist Couple Out of Canada

Report from George & Maureen Kehoe Ostensen

On July 22, 2010, we packed up our 1982 VW camper van and drove to Lubec with the intention of crossing the Canadian border to explore the coast for wildlife, to experience the incredible tides and to do some bicycling. However, the Canadian Border Patrol people decided that George was “inadmissible”, meaning that we had to return to the United States because of his long record of acts of nonviolent resistance to militarism.

Specifically, the border police asked about witnesses in which George was convicted of sabotage and damaging property. The Canadian Border guard showed us our rap sheets (Maureen had 2 pages and George had 5). George’s record went back to 1985 when he was convicted of holding a banner across the railroad tracks in Montezuma, Georgia, when the then new D-5 warheads were being transported to Kings Bay, Georgia (homeport of the Trident submarines, to be installed on the ballistic missiles there). Six of us were convicted in that witness in which we pled guilty to criminal damage to property (specifically railroad tracks) and contempt of court for violating the judge’s court order prohibiting us from doing the witness which we announced ahead of time we were planning to do. We received time served (6 days) for that witness.

George also has convictions for a plowshares action in Wisconsin at Project ELF, in which he was convicted of sabotage for causing the Navy to shut down their first strike trigger for nuclear war. George served 27 months in prison for that witness. And yes, there were a dozen more witnesses in which he was arrested and served time for, including blocking the entrance to Cape Kennedy in Florida on January 15, 1987, causing a delay in the test launch of the D-5 Trident missile, and climbing the White House fence on December 30, 1990 with 10 others to pour blood and red dye in the White House fountain, making the statement that a fountain of blood would flow if we went to war on Iraq. (I was surprised to see that my record shows that I was convicted of 3 charges in that witness of unlawful entry, destruction of government property and defacing government property when in reality as the case went to court in 1991 we were released as the war raged on – charges dismissed). George also has a series of witnesses at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab in Maryland where we protested the work done there on the Trident and Aegis weapon systems, as well as actions at the Trident submarine launchings and most recently, 7 years ago at Bath Iron Works here in Maine, where we continue to vigil regularly against the building of Aegis warships.

Even with such a record, we decided we would try to call in the morning to see if possibly a mistake was made and that maybe we could still get into Canada by appealing the decision of the border guard, figuring that since we were able to go to Canada in 1999 and that all of these convictions were many years ago and all acts of nonviolent resistance against clearly a misguided policy of the U.S. government, that they just might let us in. But that was not to be.

After reviewing the information and speaking with the Minister of Immigration and Citizenship on the telephone, the decision was that George needed to apply for Rehabilitation. But now after reading over what that entails it seems very unlikely that George will qualify for that either, being that he is clearly not rehabilitated and continues to witness to the best of his ability against the misguided policies of militarism that the U.S. government continues to pursue with the many nuclear and conventional weapon systems currently in operation around the world. The Rehabilitation program is designed for people who have done something in the past that they regret doing and can show how they have changed their lives. We, however, do not feel that George did anything that he has not already paid the price for. Civil Disobedience requires one to take full responsibility for ones actions, and George has always done that. We see this being “inadmissible” to Canada as an over reaction to a fear of terrorism perpetuated by the U.S. government’s Homeland Security nightmare that is causing people like George to be excluded from Canada for reasons that we see as unfounded. But proving that to a border guard is really pretty much impossible for us.

So we didn’t go to Canada even though we got those new passport cards. We should have checked all this out before we did but maybe it will work itself out as we continue to talk to people about what if anything we could do next. Thank you for all you continue to do for a just and disarmed world. May all love surround you and guide you on.

Smilin’ Trees,
George & Maureen Kehoe Ostensen