WASHINGTON — Two high-profile American peace activists on Thursday accused the Canadian government of denying them entry into Canada solely because of past arrests in the U.S. for peaceful protests against the war in Iraq. Medea Benjamin, founder of the women’s peace movement CodePink, and former U.S. diplomat Ann Wright were detained for several hours by Canadian authorities at the border crossing between Buffalo, N.Y. and Niagara Falls, Ont., then turned back because their names appeared on an FBI database detailing their misdemeanour convictions.
“We believe the Canadian government should not be doing the dirty political intimidation work for the Bush administration by using that database,” Wright, a former U.S. army colonel and deputy ambassador, said at a news conference outside the Canadian embassy in Washington.
The two women were en route from Buffalo to Toronto on Wednesday to meet with Canadian anti-war activists when immigration officials denied them entry. According to Benjamin and Wright, the Canadian authorities informed them they could not enter Canada because their names appeared on the FBI’s National Crime Information Center database. In Benjamin’s case, border agents cited a past misdemeanour trespassing conviction for a sit-in at the U.S. mission at the United Nations. She was fined $50 in that incident. As recently as August, Benjamin had been admitted into Canada without problem.
“I have been arrested for sitting in front of the White House. I’ve been arrested for standing up and speaking at the U.S. Congress. All of these are misdemeanours,” said Wright, who quit a 16-year State Department career following the invasion of Iraq in March 2003. “I’ve never spent a day in jail as punishment.” The women were informed they could not enter Canada until they completed a lengthy application detailing their “criminal rehabilitation.”
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