Cover image for Northern passage : American Vietnam War resisters in Canada
Northern passage : American Vietnam War resisters in Canada
Hagan, John, 1946-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Cambridge, MA : Harvard University Press, 2001.
Physical Description:
xiii, 269 pages ; 24 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
DS559.8.D7 H33 2001 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks
DS559.8.D7 H33 2001 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order



More than 50,000 draft-age American men and women migrated to Canada during the Vietnam War, the largest political exodus from the United States since the American Revolution. How are we to understand this migration three decades later? Was their action simply a marginal, highly individualized spin-off of the American antiwar movement, or did it have its own lasting collective meaning? John Hagan, himself a member of the exodus, searched declassified government files, consulted previously unopened resistance organization archives and contemporary oral histories, and interviewed American war resisters settled in Toronto to learn how they made the momentous decision. Canadian immigration officials at first blocked the entry of some resisters; then, under pressure from Canadian church and civil liberties groups, they fully opened the border, providing these Americans with the legal opportunity to oppose the Vietnam draft and military mobilization while beginning new lives in Canada. It was a turning point for Canada as well, an assertion of sovereignty in its post-World War II relationship with the United States.

Author Notes

John Hagan is John D. MacArthur Professor of Sociology and Law at Northwestern University and University Professor of Law and Sociology at the University of Toronto.

Reviews 4

Booklist Review

For those who lived through the era and for those to whom it is only history, the Vietnam War is still a grim fascination. Why did we lose? Why did it last so long? Why did so many leave the country of their birth to avoid fighting the war? Dorland assembled a real cross section of "voices" and certainly a notable who's who from the era. He interviewed the likes of Henry Kissinger, William Westmoreland, David Halberstam, and Tom Hayden, among others. Together, they include those who ran the war, who fought it, who covered it as journalists, and who were against it. Journalist Peter Arnett talks about the CIA flying in heroin from Laos to be sold on U.S. air bases. Senator John Kerry speaks about resigning from the navy after two tours of duty and becoming a spokesman for the Vietnam Veterans against the War. Daniel Ellsberg speaks of leaking the Pentagon Papers to the New York Times. Then there are voices from both South and North Vietnam. Le Ly Hayslip recounts her view of the war from her Vietnamese village and as a Viet Cong sentinel assigned to warn the guerrillas of American movements. Their stories convey not only their experiences but also a perspective of what was happening more than 25 years ago when they were part of history. More than 50,000 draft-age men and women fled the U.S. for Canada to avoid serving in the Vietnam War. In the beginning, Canada was less than eager to have them, but pressure from church groups and others changed that. Unlike James Dickerson's North to Canada (1999), which looked primarily at the individuals who fled there, Hagan offers a sociological perspective of the resisters, their effects on Canada, and their decision to return or not return to the U.S. after amnesty was offered. What is most interesting here are Canadians' opinions of this American invasion, which ranged from "Why should we as Canadians keep these bums in our country, when they have no loyalty to their own?" to "Since when is it a function of the Canadian government to enforce U.S. laws respecting the draft?" --Marlene Chamberlain

Publisher's Weekly Review

From the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution in 1964 to the fall of Saigon in 1975, the Vietnam War was at the molten center of American politics and dominated the American psyche. To historians, political scientists and sociologists, the war was a transformative event both culturally and politically. For thousands of draft-age Americans, including both men and women whose political convictions were engaged, the war's effect was immediate and profound. Writing for two audiences, Hagan, a professor of sociology and law at both Northwestern University and the University of Toronto, presents an earnest, thoughtful and respectful examination of American draft resisters who emigrated to Canada as he did himself rather than serve in the U.S. armed forces. Fellow academicians will welcome the parts of the book that are steeped in arcane and esoteric political process theory. General readers, particularly those of a certain age who were keenly conscious of America's involvement in Vietnam, will be interested in better understanding the new lives the emigrants made. To that end, Hagan poses questions whose answers illuminate the consequences, good and bad, of self-imposed exile. Moreover, informed by the Canadian perspective, the end result is far more than a mere reflection of the much-studied America of the Vietnam era. This is a very well-researched, scrupulously honest and generous book that gets facts right and seeks to set aside the divisive judgments of the time. Illus. (May 31) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

During the Vietnam War, 50,000 Americans (slightly more women than men) left to seek new lives in Canada. Hagan, who currently holds faculty appointments in both law and sociology at Northwestern University and the University of Toronto, was one of them. Here he presents narrative profiles and a thorough empirical investigation, based on 100 interviews, of these expatriates and how they fared in their adopted city of Toronto. They have mostly enjoyed successful, fulfilling lives and have remained activists for a variety of political and environmental causes. Prime Minister Trudeau headed a government that welcomed draft resisters in 1967 and, unlike the United States, accepted military deserters two years later. Much attention is devoted to the efforts of the Toronto Anti-Draft Program and Amex, organizations that helped expatriates adapt to their new country and provided a political forum for protesting the war in Canada and America. Amnesty was finally given to draft resisters, but not deserters, by President Carter in 1977. This is a more detailed study of the war resisters than James Dickerson offers in North to Canada (LJ 3/15/99) and is strongly recommended for larger public and academic collections. Karl Helicher, Upper Merion Twp. Lib., King of Prussia, PA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

Utilizing sociological interpretations, interviews with 100 war resisters, and government documents, Hagan thoughtfully explores a too-little-examined aspect of America's Vietnam War experience. Calling on the memories of draft resisters, military deserters, spouses, girlfriends, and family members, he discusses the forces that compelled tens of thousands to undertake a political exodus to Canada that involved both individual declarations of resistance and a resistance movement that reshaped its participants, their loved ones, and Canada. The author, who made the odyssey himself, focuses on Toronto and its American ghetto, which sheltered those who were both "new exiles and new Canadians." Frustration over the war, often heightened by events like the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago, led to the migration. The move northward proved difficult for some, but many took advantage of privileged educational backgrounds, skills, and Canada's general receptivity to adapt fairly readily. The Canadian government's response to the resisters was shaped by desires to affirm national autonomy, opposition to the war, economic uncertainties, and political turmoil that led to the declaration of martial law in 1970. Hagan skillfully examines the torturous path toward reconciliation that involved demands of amnesty for both draft resisters and deserters. General and academic collections. R. C. Cottrell California State University, Chico

Table of Contents

Preface: First Snowp. ix
1 Laws of Resistancep. 1
2 Opening the Gatesp. 34
3 Toronto's American Ghettop. 66
4 Activism by Exilep. 99
5 Two Amnesties and a Jailingp. 138
6 Choosing Canadap. 180
Appendix A The Respondent-Driven Sample and Interviewsp. 223
Appendix B Tablesp. 235
Notesp. 243
Indexp. 265