The government of Canada has banned the British Parliamentarian (MP) and anti-war activist George Galloway from entering Canada on the grounds that he poses a threat to national security.
The MP had been slated for a speaking tour, which included an appearance at Concordia on April 1.
However, Galloway was able to speak at Concordia’s Hall building via videolink from New York. He began by sardonically thanking the Stephen Harper and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney for bringing more attention to his speeches in Canada than he would have received otherwise.
“Because of their efforts to stifle dissent, far more people have attended these lectures than they otherwise would have,” Galloway said.
Galloway also announced his intention to pursue legal action against Bernie Farber, the head of the Canadian Jewish Congress, as well as Canadian broadcaster CTV, for airing an interview with Farber in which he asserted that Galloway is a supporter of terrorism.
“There’s enough that I say for you to criticize me, but you cannot lie about me,” he said. “I am not a supporter of Hamas, but I am a supporter of the right of the Palestinian people to resist the occupation that has destroyed their country. That might make me controversial in Canada, but it does not make me a terrorist.”
Galloway recently visited Gaza in order to deliver medical supplies, as well as $45,000, to the Hamas-led government of Gaza. Alykhan Velshi, a spokesperson for Kenney, stated that Galloway has been banned for violating the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, which stipulates that supporters of terrorist organizations may not be permitted into Canada.
Galloway contended that the attempt to criminalize those who support the Palestinian cause is at the heart of the anti-war struggle.He ended his speech by calling for a binational state in which both Israelis and Palestinians would be granted equal human and civil rights.
“There’s no place for white states or Jewish states or black states in the 21st century. There is only a place for democratic states in which every man and woman is treated as equal,” Galloway said.
Laith Marouf, a member of Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights (SPHR) who was involved in organizing Galloway’s visit, saw the Canadian government’s decision as a violation of free speech.
“This is part of a pattern that we’ve seen clearly for the past three months from the Conservative government,” Marouf said, pointing to the Canadian government’s criticism of Israeli Apartheid Week and its funding cuts to the Canadian Arab Federation. “This attack on Galloway’s freedom of speech is part of that. It’s an attempt to silence all those who criticize the Israeli government and the Canadian government’s policies in the Middle East.”
In response to the ban, SPHR filed an emergency injunction in federal court, claiming that the allegations that Galloway posed a threat to national security were entirely based on hearsay. Though SPHR’s concerns were recognized by the court, the presiding judge, Justice Luc Martineau, refused to overturn the Immigration Ministry’s decision.
“Because we were going to broadcast Mr. Galloway to the lecture halls, the judge found that there wasn’t enough harm done by the ban to overturn the government’s decision,” said Marouf.
Alykhan Velshi could not be reached for comment.