Interview with George Galloway: Lawsuit launched against Jason Kenney

| April 21, 2011
Photo: Steve Punter/Flickr

Former British MP George Galloway is suing the Canadian government for $1.5million. The legal action alleges defamation, misfeasance of public office and claims general and exemplary damages and papers were served to Immigration, Nationalities and Multiculturalism minister Jason Kenney and his assistant Alykhan Velshi a week ago.

The claim centres on allegations Kenney and Velshi made about Galloway, on the record and in inter-departmental communications, when he was banned from Canada in March 2009. Specifically that he was a member of a terrorist organization and was threat to the national security of Canada. They also claimed that the security services had confirmed this. Mr. Galloway and his counsel assert that none of these allegations was true.

The claim alleges that Kenney and Velshi abused the power of their offices by banning Galloway from Canada in March 2009 to prevent him from appearing on a cross-country speaking tour on the false pretext that he was a threat to national security. In addition, the claim alleges that both Kenney and Velshi made false statements to the media that have defamed Galloway.

rabble.ca caught up with Galloway in a phone interview from London, U.K., where he was learning more about another case that impinged his rights -- the wiretapping/phone hacking scandal involving the Murdoch-owned tabloid The News of the World.

Cathryn Atkinson: Tell me about the lawsuit and what made you finally decide to go for it.

George Galloway: These things cannot be gone into lightly. They are extremely complex, extremely expensive and one needs to prepare carefully. We have, I think, prepared very carefully our case. We have engaged the very best lawyer, I think... in Canada, certainly, in Ontario, on this case. Mr. [Louis] Sokolov is very famous and high powered and instructed by the solicitors who handled my case in the first place. Together they will make a formidable team.

If you look at the statement of claim, it's a pretty formidable one. I'm not sure I'd like to be in the shoes of those at whom it is aimed [Immigration, Nationalities and Multiculturalism minister Jason Kenney and his assistant Alykhan Velshi].

So we're off and running. We've served the papers; the timing of it, as Mr. Sokolov said, was coincidental -- that it is in the middle of my election campaign [Galloway is running in Glasgow for the Scottish Parliament.] and coincidental that it is in the middle of Mr. Kenney's. It was driven by the limitations of the law in Ontario for the filing of such a case. No one should read into it that it is deliberately aimed as some kind of intervention in the [Canadian] election.

I believe it has a very strong chance of succeeding.

CA: I would assume that you looked at this angle before proceeding.

GG: Yes, and I have some experience of these matters, having been fairly regularly traduced over the last 30 years, and having defeated many powerful forces through the judicial process.

CA: You had launched a lawsuit before this whole matter was put aside in the courts last year and you were able to come to Canada, but you abandoned that lawsuit. Are the two connected?

GG: No. The one you refer to was aimed at parts of the Canadian media, and a leader of the pro-Israel camp in Canada. This [case] is much more restricted and restricted to only two people, and their misfeasance of office, and their defamation. I think this case, restricted in target and subject, as it is, will prevail because it was, as I said all along, and this is not always appreciated by some on the Canadian left, Canada remains, fundamentally, a country governed by laws.

When Mr. Velshi said the decision had been made and that was that I did make the point on Canadian television that politicians and far less their hatchet men cannot say "that is that," because in a democracy, governments much behave reasonably. Where the courts find them to have behaved unreasonably, then remedies are available and that is what I am counting on.

CA: George, you said it wasn't appreciated by the Canadian left...

GG: Mmm. There are some on the left who, unhappy as they are and no doubt should be about some aspects of the Canadian political and legal systems, which they feel are too conservative, the benches are too conservative, that they are somehow biased against the left... I'm sure that is true, as it is true in my own country. But fundamental in the last analysis, both our countries remain countries that are governed by law and not by the whim of here-today-and-gone-tomorrow politicians.

CA: You've shown a lot of faith in Canada's systems of governance.

GG: I hope it's not excessive faith, but so far I've had far more justice from the judicial system than I have had from the political system.

CA: Are you coming to Canada when it comes to court?

GG: I'm sure I shall, and before then, too. The wheels of justice grind exceeding slow but they grind exceeding fine, and I am hoping for a fine outcome.

I have no intention of staying away from Canada for long, as long as I can avoid the worst of the weather [laughing]. I'd be surprised [if the court date] took place before the end of the year. 

CA: What are you doing at the moment?

GG: I am in London, at the moment, because I was in the High Court on Friday, with many others, against Mr. Murdoch's News of the World. I now have an apology and an offer of a large amount of money from them, but I turned that down because I want to have my day in court. We'll see how this all works out.

So I am here, for a day or two, and then I am back on the campaign trail in Glasgow, where I am standing for the Scottish Parliament. The elections are on the 5th of May. I am well and truly in the running.

What I am going to do is get the selection out of the way, and win or lose I'll then head immediately for Cairo, which I haven't been able to visit yet, since the revolutions. I was deported and declared persona non grata there by the Mubarak dictatorship. Very, very profound changes there.

One of the reasons the Canadian government [worked hard in trying to] exclude me was that I had called for the overthrow of the Egyptian government by the Egyptian armed forces. The idea that Canadians should aid a brutal dictatorship, now overthrown, its ruling party dissolved, is, I hope, an embarrassment to the minister, Mr. Kenney.

Cathryn Atkinson is rabble.ca's news and features editor.

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