On Saturday evening, former British MP George Galloway arrives in Canada and gives a speech Sunday afternoon in front of what organizers predict will be a packed house at Trinity-St. Paul’s United Church in Toronto. That’s assuming he’s allowed into the country. When Galloway tried to enter Canada 18 months ago, he was turned back.
In his judgment, Federal Court Judge Richard Mosley made it clear that the Conservative government used the Immigration Act to prevent Galloway from entering Canada because they disagreed with his political views -- not because he presented any threat to Canadians. There are other cases before the courts now that raise similar issues.
“I think that this case confirms that this particular government is applying Canadian laws politically in order to advance its own agenda,” said Barbara Jackman, legal counsel for Galloway and thirteen other applicants, during Wednesday morning’s press conference. She explained that the legislation under which Galloway was told he was inadmissible to Canada is meant to protect Canada’s security from people who are members of terrorist organizations. But Galloway was never (and still isn’t) a member of any terrorist organization.
He did, however, engage in a political act to support the Palestinians in Gaza against the blockade of the Israeli government. “And it’s because of that, the Canadian government refused him admission to Canada,” she said. “It’s a misuse of Canadian law. Supporting Palestinian causes is a free speech issue -- not a hatred issue.”
Co-counsel Hadayt Nazami also wasn’t surprised that the court cleared Galloway of any wrongdoing and explicitly pronounced that this was a political decision. “They attempted to bar him because of his political views,” he said. “In similar cases, the Canadian government is acting in a way that is in line with other totalitarian and anti-democratic regimes.”
And that should be a concern to any Canadian who has an opinion, said Nazami. “There are a number of cases where the behavior of the Canadian government should be examined,” he said. “It’s a dangerous type of behavior.”
Given Judge Mosely’s decision, Nazami feels that the government should apologize to Galloway and his supporters and let him enter Canada this weekend to deliver the speech he was supposed to deliver in March last year.
James Clark of the Toronto Coalition to Stop the War spoke on behalf of the other applicants in this case. “We are elated at the decision because we think it confirms every argument that we had been raising since Mr. Galloway was blocked from Canada,” he said. And they’re confident that the path has been cleared for him to return to continue his speaking tour.
When Galloway arrives on Saturday evening, he will be greeted with a welcome rally between 5 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. at the arrivals gate at Pearson Airport. On Sunday, a city-wide public meeting will be held at Trinity-St. Pauls’s United Church in Toronto at 3 p.m. when Galloway will speak about the fight to overturn his ban and the struggle to end war and occupation in Palestine, Afghanistan and around the world. rabble.ca will be livestreaming his arrival and speech.
“God willing and the willingness of the government to accept defeat I will see you on Saturday afternoon,” said Galloway via videoconference from London, England. (But the possibility still exists that the Harper Conservatives will ignore Justice Mosely’s judgment and block Galloway from speaking in Toronto.) “Proving that Canada is still a country governed by laws -- not by George Bush neo-con politicians whose days may or may not be numbered.”
He thanked his legal team and all his supporters who stood by him and believed in the right of the Canadian people to hear different arguments about important issues. Since the decision, he’s been following the right wing news media coverage. “Most of them have spun the government line that we lost,” he said. “Well, that’s going to look a little bit like a pyric victory for them if I’m standing in Toronto on Saturday afternoon.”
He found it odd that many right wing pundits see him as an “inconsequential fellow” with very few supporters.
“In which case by spending a great deal of taxpayers’ money and political capital on this inconsequential nobody, it’s only possible to conclude that Canada is governed by fools,” he said. “Because only fools would go to all this effort.”
Perhaps Galloway isn’t so inconsequential after all. That his views are shared by more people than his opponents are willing to concede. And, therefore, he should be allowed to speak.
“There’s much to be said on Saturday and Sunday should I be with you then,” said Galloway. “Just like a book they tried to ban which tops the bestseller lists, there’s going to a lot of people in Canada listening to what I’ve got to say. A lot more than ever would have been if the Minister (Kenney) had not embarked upon this foolish course of action.”