One way or another, George Galloway will be heard in Canada -- he is scheduled to speak in Toronto on Monday, Mar. 30 -- despite the ban on him entering the country. On Sunday, a diverse range of groups supporting free speech will challenge his ban in a court hearing.
Even if this fails, Galloway's speech will be broadcast live to audiences across the country; by his own estimation, the British Member of Parliament will be heard by "audiences probably a hundred times greater" than if Minister Jason Kenney had not upheld the decision to keep him out of Canada on "security grounds." Am Johal caught up with Galloway, who is currently on a speaking tour in the United States.
Am Johal: The Harper government in Canada seems to have politicized the bureaucracy in making this highly irrational decision to ban you from Canada. It's an unprecedented attack on free speech in Canada given you are an elected MP from Britain. What do you make of the Harper government's motivation for doing this?
George Galloway: You know you can be more Catholic than the Pope, more discredited than George Bush but you can't be more anti-terrorist than the U.S.A. Yet the Canadian government has managed it. I'm allowed into the United States to move freely and talk to massive audiences -- swelled I'm sure by the Canadian ban -- but I can't get into your country. At least that's the state of play now. Our court case challenging this ban is due to be heard on Sunday.
I'm a Scotsman and Canada and my country have such historical links that it's a bit like being turned away from your own home. This is obviously a political move by an ultra-right wing government at the fag end of its term and I can only think that this is some attempt by Jason Kenney to stake out the far-right territory -- so far-right they're just a tiny angry blip in the distance for himself. What he has done is to boost the audiences for my speeches and I will be heard, either in person or by interactive video link. At the last count 20 cities wanted the feed.
The irony in this whole affair is that I have never been a supporter of Hamas. But they are the elected government of Palestine and no country can attempt to impose the kind of government they favour on another people in the way that my country, yours and the United States want to.
AJ: It is strange that you are allowed in to the U.S., but not in to Canada. This really undermines Canada's reputation in the world as an enlightened nation. The Conservatives have proven that they are troglodytes. What message would you like to send to Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney?
GG: There's nothing I could say to either of them that wouldn't be coruscating and deeply insulting. But I'd only do that face-to-face, so that must remain private. I rather suspect, though, that when I do meet up with them they will be much diminished politicians -- is that possible? -- and in opposition.
AJ: You have remarked in your recent speeches about the right-wing turn in Israeli politics, particularly the rise of Avigdor Lieberman who openly supports the ethnic transfer of Israel's Palestinian citizens. What are the implications of this in the region and what role can the EU play in brokering a peace process, if any?
GG: I think that if Barack Obama cannot broker a deal between Palestine and Israel there's no point in closing Guantanamo. Indeed he'll have to open a hundred Guantanamos because the region will erupt.
The previous Israeli government launched the 22-day offensive on Gaza to win the election and still the Israeli people reject them for others who want even bloodier torment visited on the people. I'm deeply pessimistic. Only Obama can reign-in these blood-crazed politicians. The EU has not and never will have influence. America keeps Israel afloat financially and militarily. Winning the war for the mind of Obama is the principal task.
AJ: What do you make of Tony Blair in his role as a Mideast envoy for the Quartet?
GG: Not since Caligula made his horse pro-consul of Rome has there been such a ridiculous choice as Tony Blair, the war criminal, as Quartet envoy.
AJ: There are legal challenges moving forward and numerous campaigns to support your upcoming visit to Canada. If you are not allowed in, how do you intend to keep fighting the Harper government?
GG: I will be allowed in. If not now in the near future because I've visited Canada many times and I have faith in the eminent good sense of Canadian citizens. If not this time then I will broadcast by satellite link to audiences probably a hundred times greater than I would have down there. So I suppose I should be grateful to Kenney.
AJ: What do you think of Canada's role in Afghanistan?
GG: The Canadian people with their magnificent shows of strength prevented Canada becoming embroiled in the Iraq catastrophe. I'm afraid that there is no winning in Afghanistan, not militarily certainly, many have tried and none succeeded. I'm afraid many wives, mothers and children will be grieving in the months to come. We have no right intervening in another country's affairs and that will be my message in my speeches.
Am Johal is a Vancouver-based independent writer.