“I hope we get to stay,” Christian Rivera, son of U.S. war resister Kimberly Rivera who has been ordered to leave Canada by Sept. 20 or face forceful removal, said excitedly into the microphone before protesters gathered inside the basement of Parkdale United Church and spilling out onto the lawn outside.
The War Resisters Support Campaign organized the Sept. 5 “emergency rally”, which was attended by area politicians, representatives from faith groups, Amnesty International, fellow war resistors and supporters.
Rivera is a former U.S. soldier who sought asylum in Canada after refusing to re-deploy to Iraq in 2007. She has lived in Parkdale for the past five years with her husband and four children, two of who were born in Canada.
Rivera is active in the community, volunteering with the Sketch community garden and supporting local churches with their meal programs.
“I believe that as long as I have the support of my community...it’s very possible that I will be accepted with a humanitarian and compassion application,” Rivera said at the rally to support her and her family. “Then we can all celebrate and have an even bigger block party.”
Shelley Melanson, from the office of Parkdale-High Park MP Peggy Nash, read a statement on Nash’s behalf.
“Canadians have always given refuge to people fleeing unjust wars,” the statement said. “It’s part of our values and our history as a country. Kimberly Rivera and her family should be allowed to stay.”
Activist and retired Anglican bishop Desmond Tutu penned a statement regarding what he called “the urgent situation of Kimberly Rivera and her family”.
“Please add my voice to those who are speaking out to support the war resisters and urge that they be allowed to stay in Canada,” Tutu’s statement read. “These are people of courage, they are people of peace and they should be granted asylum.”
Councillor Gord Perks encouraged those in attendance to spread the message to their friends, family, neighbours and co-workers to add their voices to those fighting for the Rivera family.
Parkdale-High Park MPP Cheri DiNovo said the community wants Rivera to stay.
“We won’t stand for it. We won’t let you go Kim,” said DiNovo to applause.
Following the speeches, the group marched from the church to the Parkdale Library carrying banners and chanting, “War resisters welcome here”. They also gathered names on a petition requesting the Rivera family be allowed to stay in Canada.
Rivera has asked the government to defer her removal pending the outcome of her 2009 application to stay on humanitarian and compassionate grounds.
On Friday, Sept. 14 from 4:30 to 6 p.m., there is a Canada-wide day of petitioning planned with three locations in Toronto including Dunn Avenue in Parkdale. Then on Wednesday, Sept. 19, there will be a peaceful demonstration to protest the deportation of the Rivera family at the Federal Court Building at 180 Queen St. W.