Anti-war British MP Galloway kept out of Canada
Published Friday, March 20, 2009 8:51PM EDT
Last Updated Friday, May 18, 2012 10:29PM EDT
Controversial British MP George Galloway has been denied admission to Canada to speak at a Toronto anti-war conference, and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney doesn't plan on stepping in.
"We're not going to give special permission to someone who boasts about providing material support and aid to a banned illegal, anti-Semitic terrorist organization like Hamas," said Kenney on Friday.
Border security officials deemed Galloway to be inadmissible under Section 34(1) of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act. That act deals with excluding those who provide material support for terrorism.
Kenney said that just last week, Galloway "publicly called for a coup d'etat in Egypt and the overthrow of the government there while at the same time delivering aid and resources to Hamas, which is a banned illegal terrorist organization.
"In this case, I believe folks that are supporting and promoting and helping terrorist organizations are not needed to visit Canada."
Galloway was to speak at a March 30 conference called Resisting War from Gaza to Kandahar, an event being put on by the Toronto Coalition to Stop the War before making other speaking stops in Mississauga, Ottawa and Montreal. He also has an American tour planned.
Galloway issued a statement saying "this idiotic ban shames Canada." He called it "a very sad day for the Canada we have known and loved.
"All right-thinking Canadians, whether they agree with me over the wisdom of sending troops to Afghanistan or not, will oppose this outrageous decision," he said.
"On a personal note, for a Scotsman to be barred from Canada is like being told to stay away from the family home."
Galloway helped lead an aid convoy into the Gaza Strip after Israel's incursion there earlier this winter to take on Hamas fighters who had been launching rockets into Israel.
The Canadian Jewish Congress quickly issued a statement commending the government for its decision.
"We applaud the Canadian government for keeping George Galloway, a man who thrives on his support of terrorists, out of Canada," said CJC Co-President Sylvain Abitbol.
"George Galloway publicly brags about his moral and, in some cases financial, support for internationally recognized terrorist organizations including Hamas, Hezbollah and the Taliban. He proudly flaunts his own nation's laws and dares Western states to prosecute him for his support of terrorists. He is clearly a risk to Canadians," he added.
B'nai Brith Canada also endorsed the government's action.
"This is a full frontal attack on free speech in Canada, and one that all supporters of civil liberties must challenge," said James Clark from the Toronto Coalition to Stop the War.
"Kenney's ban is an unprecedented move to censor someone whose views are critical of our own government's foreign policy. We will not accept this ban, and we plan on challenging it."
In Winnipeg, Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff said he didn't agree with Galloway's views.
"We let into Canada all kinds of people who say ridiculous and absurd things and Galloway has said his share of ridiculous and absurd things. The issue ... is whether the security services know something about George Galloway that I don't," he said.
"The minister of immigration is becoming the minister of censorship," NDP immigration critic Olivia Chow said. "We don't have to agree with everything Mr. Galloway talks about.
"But, at bare minimum, they should be allowed to express their points of view so Canadians can make decisions themselves. This is pure censorship and it's wrong."
Galloway in Canada
Galloway has been an outspoken opponent of the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq. The British Labour party kicked him out in 2003 for his stance, but he won re-election in 2005 under his Respect party banner.
In 2004, Galloway won a libel case against the Daily Telegraph newspaper, which had alleged in April 2003 that Galloway had received money from the Iraqi regime of then-dictator Saddam Hussein.
Speaking at a 2005 conference in Mississauga organized by two Islamic groups, Galloway called on Canada to withdraw from Afghanistan.
"Canada has sent an army of 1,000 soldiers to occupy the Muslim country of Afghanistan (and ships to the Persian Gulf),'' Galloway said.
"Your ships in the Gulf and your soldiers in Afghanistan are doing the dirty work of George W. Bush and Tony Blair. They are freeing American ships and soldiers to go to Fallujah and massacre the people of Iraq.''
Also in 2005, a panel of U.S. senators grilled Galloway over the allegations he had accepted bribes from the regime of former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.
But Galloway gave as good as he got in what many saw as a bravura performance.
"I have never seen a barrel of oil, owned one, bought one, sold one, and neither has anybody on my behalf," he told then-Sen. Norm Coleman, R-Minn.
"Now, you have nothing on me, senator, except my name on lists of names from Iraq, many of which have been drawn up after the installation of your puppet government in Baghdad."
"I know that standards have slipped in Washington in recent years, but for a lawyer, you're remarkably cavalier with any idea of justice," Galloway said.
"I gave my heart and soul to stop you committing the disaster that you did commit in invading Iraq ... senator, in everything I said about Iraq, I turned out to be right and you turned out to be wrong."
However, the lower house of Britain's parliament suspended Galloway for 18 days in 2007 after a committee found circumstantial evidence that a charity set up by the MP had been partly funded by Hussein's regime.
With files from The Canadian Press
British lawmaker George Galloway speaks during a press conference in Gaza City, Tuesday, March 10, 2009. (AP / Hatem Moussa)