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Leaving the United States

Decision to Come to Canada - Richard Allon

Time 0:01:51


They advertised in one of the American journals and this was a job for a researcher in their clinical investigation unit. And I applied. And they accepted me. So, the second pull, as I say, I had some familiarity with Toronto from my childhood, I was looking for a job and the Canadians offered me one when my own countrymen didn't. And, also, the United States, at that point, was—this is 1970, heavily embroiled in Vietnam, not yet having extricated itself. Actually, very similar parallels to what's going on right now with the situation in Iraq. And I had kind of given up on the United States. When I was in the navy, it was only five years earlier, this is the Kennedy era, and it was quite appropriate to be patriotic and Kennedy, you know, "Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your county." And it had gone very quickly from sort of the sense of the United States being the leader of the free world to the United States being sort of an imperialist power. And so I—in my youth, my youthful look at things, there was some disillusionment about U.S. foreign policy. I knew Canada well from my childhood, the Canadians offered me a job. And that's ultimately, those factors combined to get me here.

Oral History 07.03.02RA with Richard Allon
Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21

Difficulties Leaving Home - Frank Scarfino

Time 0:02:25


Because I had all these memories about—I shared earlier about—"How could you do this to your mother? How could you do this to your family? How could you do this to people who loved you? How could you do this to your country? You're a communist. You're a traitor." So, I had all that in my head and yet I felt — it wasn't that I can't, you know, it's different than what you hear today about Syrian refugees. So, I can't say that I was thrilled about it. I hate to say that, but I was glad I was here because I didn't want to get drafted. But it was awful. You know it was—even later on when I uh—Waterloo. I didn't become a Canadian citizen right away. That's maybe a better indication. Several years—at that time in the seventies, school boards were being asked to—I think would be exert—there was some pressure being exerted on school boards to hire Canadians first and I was still American. Waterloo board was really good. They didn't pressure me, but it was more and more obvious in the news that this was coming. So, I became a Canadian. And I remember going to the post office to sign the forms and this is several years later and my hands were still shaking. That was several years later. So, I can't say I was—I was sort of a rah-rah Canadian. It was just—it was awful because it was my home, the United States. I still think about Syracuse as my home—home, and I remember that instance, the RCMP were there to greet—greet us. It was different in the United States. They were being nicer, greeting you and welcoming you to be a cit—you know—becoming a Canadian citizen and welcome to Canada. It was me that was—that had the hard time.

Oral History 16.03.04FS with Frank Scarfino
Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21

Family Reaction to Leaving - Bruce Bolin

Time 0:01:30


And I had come from a family where my father had been drafted and served five years in the U.S. Army during World War Two and seen enough to realize that war is not good. He was on the winning side and he survived it without any physical injury um but he had seen enough of horrors on both sides that when it was coming time for me to let them know that I was planning to go to Canada to avoid being drafted turned out my father who’s an attorney he decided—he told me he had already written to the Canadian consulate in Chicago to find out what the options were for somebody in my position, he had not named me by name. And I was nervous knowing he was a war vet as how he might react to my plans to avoid military service, well turned out to be a nonissue in my family. Both my parents were very supportive and glad I'd made the decision I had, although they didn't try to talk me into it, they were glad I made that decision. My grandparents, my paternal grandparents who lived nearby, the grandparents I knew the best. By then my grandfather had died, but my grandmother, she was under the attitude that the president must know best, you know, don’t draw attention to yourself, be drafted, you'll find a way to survive it. That was sort of her attitude, so she didn't approve of my plans, but she didn't disown me or try to interfere in any way.

Oral History 16.03.03BB with Bruce Bolin
Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21

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Guilt About Leaving - Robert Porter

Time 0:01:14


Leaving the US was difficult, like I said, besides family and friends, neighborhood, what your familiar with. You know, it was really difficult on many levels. I felt really guilty. I was leaving behind people that I knew, you know, I had friends that were going off to war, maybe die, might be injured, traumatized by what they've seen and done. You know, and I’ve always had a little of that in the back of my mind ever since. Even after all these years, I keep thinking about— in some ways I should have gone to understand the pain in what they went through. So, I do actually still keep a little bit of a guilt that I— I didn't stay and didn't do that, maybe not for the country, but for family and friends that did go to understand better what they went through, but uh, but you know, you have left your country, but now, it's— it's so funny because I've been here for a long time. This is my home, and uh, as much as my family still doesn't understand. Crossing the border is always a funny thing. I'm always a little apprehensive still when I cross the border to the US and when I come home. There's that sigh of relief as you come across to Canadian immigration and you're, you're back, you're back on the, back on the 401 in Ontario and you're headed home. So, Canada is my home, and has been for a long time.

Oral History 16.03.04RP with Robert Porter
Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21

Life for Family Left Behind - Cathy Wirick

Time 0:02:43


My parents disowned us because we were leaving the country, my father told my husband to pull up his pants and be a man. So, that was hard. And leaving behind all my friends in my town, um, my high school, my, everything that I was familiar with. It wasn't the same when I went to New Haven, Connecticut, because I felt still I was in the States, but coming to Canada, he wouldn't, my ex-husband wouldn't have been allowed to leave Canada, he was wanted by the FBI, so that was really hard. My parents did come around, my dad put up a display in his jewellry store in the window. "These weapons of war are obsolete, shouldn't war be?" And he had shells from his tanks that he put up in the window. And that was October 17, 1969, so it didn't take him long, so July, August, September, October, so in those few months from when we'd left, he finally did his own research and came to the conclusion that fighting in Vietnam wasn't a good idea. And I loved him for it. And he got a lot of flack from people in town and especially because when you had your own small business then in a town, you had to look respectable and had to be a certain person and my dad threw that to the wind and just said what he wanted to say right on the street you know. So that was hard. And then, um, my husband's parents were supportive, and so when we came to Canada, my, his father would carpool to work and everyone in the carpool, everyday gave him a hard time about his son being a draft dodger. So, that was sad. And the FBI visited his mom twice in Newark, Delaware to tell her that, if you can convince your son to come back and fight for us, we'll forgive him for leaving the country, twice they visited her. So, you know, all those things were hard...

Oral History 16.03.02CW with Cathy Wirick
Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21

These audio clips are available in English. Transcripts for each clip are available in French and have been translated from English.