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Could U.S. draft evaders be extradited from Canada now?

Dear Cecil:

I am a young fellow who has not registered for the government's current nondraft, thus violating the law of the land. I haven't exactly been spending sleepless nights awaiting a knock on the door from the authorities, but any information I can glean on the subject does interest me. Specifically, I heard someone saying that a treaty between the U.S. and Canadian governments, put into effect since the Vietnam era, allows authorized agents to remove nonregistrants and draft evaders from Canada against their will. What he actually said was, "They can haul your ass back from there now." Is this true? If so, where can poor fools like me go in the event the nondraft turns into a real draft, and getting killed in some faraway land sounds no more appealing to us that it did to our predecessors?

Not-signed-because-you-never-know-who's-reading-this, Phoenix

Cecil replies:

Not to cast aspersions on your moral fiber or anything, N., but personally I have always regarded sneaking off to Canada to avoid the draft as an act of craven puppyhood. It seem to me that if you’re going to resist, the only proper thing to do is to resist, by either going the conscientious objector route or going to jail. Admittedly this is a lot less fun than cavorting with the baby seals north of the 49th parallel, but that’s the breaks. Now, getting down to your question: there is no treaty between the U.S. and Canada that permits U.S. authorities to haul your ass, or any other portion of your anatomy, back down here for draft evasion. The existing treaties, which antedate the Vietnam era by a considerable stretch, permit extradition only for offenses that are recognized as crimes in Canada. Since Canada has no draft, it has no such thing as draft evasion. On the other hand, you can by extradited for desertion once you’ve actually been inducted into the military.

Treaty or no treaty, emigrating to Canada to avoid the draft nowadays is much more difficult than it was 15 years ago, owing to the fact that Canadian immigration policies are stricter. Assuming you don’t want to spend your entire time in Canada as an illegal alien (a way of life that truly sucks, let me assure you), what you want is “landed immigrant” status, the equivalent of “permanent resident” status in the U.S. (no, “landed immigrant” doesn’t mean you have to own any land). In the early 70s the Canadian government implemented a point system to determine if you qualified for landed immigrant status, which gave you credit for things like knowledge of English and/or French, close Canadian relatives, or a job offer in Canada. However, there are also a lot of discretionary points that can be awarded depending on whether the investigating officer thinks you’d be a worthwhile addition to the Canadian polity. Such determinations are heavily influenced by Canadian public opinion, the amount of grief Canada is getting from the U.S. for harboring draft dodgers, and so on. Ever since the Canadian economy began to go sour in the mid-70s, there’s been resentment of U.S. citizens taking Canadian jobs, and I’m told that at present the chances of a well-educated young male getting landed immigrant status are extremely small. In any event, the process is extremely time-consuming.

Finally, I should point out that while emigrating to Canada was one of the most publicized methods of draft evasion during the Vietnam era, in reality it was not all that heavily used. Estimates of the number of persons actually fled to Canada vary from 20,000 to 200,000, of whom maybe half were illegals. Most would-be draft evaders simply stayed put in the U.S. As a practical matter–not saying I approve of this, you understand, but it’s one of the options–the easiest thing may be just to stay where you are, don’t register, and keep your yap shut. The government may never find you. On the other hand, if they do find you, it’s one of the easiest things to get a conviction on. Accordingly, before you do anything drastic, I strongly recommend contacting one of the draft counseling services established in most major cities.

Cecil Adams

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