One Quaker's Peaceable Victory Over the U.S.

By Jerilynn Prior | 1988-12-01 12:00:00

I'VE LIVED IN CANADA since 1976, and have been a citizen since 1984. I am taking the Canadian government to court asking for freedom of conscience under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms so that I will not have to pay for war. My U.S. tax resistance seemed remote.

My registered letter was from the U.S. Internal Revenue Service. (Ironically, it was dated July 4, a holiday in the U.S. and date of that country's freedom.) It was a notice of lien to begin in 10 days if I did not pay the almost $10,000 Canadian they say I owe from 1981 taxes and penalties.

How I approached that letter tells in a practical way, at least one Quaker's approach to peacemaking. My first response had to be a deep personal re-evaluation. I found that friends and other Quakers were supportive but could and would not decide for me. I committed myself to do what my deep religious beliefs dictated -- to contribute nothing to violence, to destruction or to war. For me, that meant I must not pay any taxes to a government that allocates more than 50 per cent of its resources for military purposes, that will not negotiate an end to nuclear testing and weapons production.

TO PREVENT SEIZURE of my Canadian property, I needed to know if the U.S. could cross the border and seize a Canadian's property in Canada. An aide in John Turner's office (he's my M.P.) talked to a Revenue Canada contact. The contact said the IRS could seize in Canada. When I appealed to John Turner (to find out the facts and to intervene because the issue of conscience and taxes for war is before the Canadian Courts) I heard nothing for two weeks and then was told I must obey the law.

I also relearned that a Quaker's stand for peace is open and honest. I paid the amount of tax the IRS said I owed from 1981: I gave it to the American Friends Service Committee asking them to use it for projects aiding U.S. citizens. I talked the issues and consequences over with my children. We agreed it give away all available assets. I spoke to my bank manager. I then wrote bank drafts and money orders until there was less than $200 in all my accounts.

Another aspect of a Quaker witness for peace is that it expects to win. I did not intend to be a victim. My children and I decided our best defence against actual seizure would be the negative publicity it would generate and the repercussions of that publicity on the Free Trade Issue. If the IRS came, they would have to take our car or our home!

NOW -- THREE months later -- nothing has been seized. An aide of the NDP taxation critic, Simon de Jong, says that the IRS cannot seize property in Canada without the cooperation of Revenue Canada. Since Revenue Canada was satisfied that I had paid my 1981 Canadian taxes satisfactorily, I was safe. It is likely that the IRS was just threatening. But what would have happened if, in 1981, I had contributed to the Peace Trust Fund those taxes designated for the military, as I have done from 1983 to the present?

My children and I had approached the threat by a recommitment to act in conscience by openly facing the consequences, and by maximizing the strength of our witness for peace and against paying taxes for war.

Peace Magazine Dec 1988-Jan 1989

Peace Magazine Dec 1988-Jan 1989, page 21. Some rights reserved.

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