Want to know how to deal with the irresponsible refusal by the organizers of the so-called Munk Debate to cancel their invitation to former Trump election strategist Steve Bannon to come to Canada and spew his racist dreck around our country?
Follow the example of Jason Kenney!
In most circumstances, the last thing a reasonable commentator would do would be to advise Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his Liberal government in Ottawa to act like Kenney.
After all, Kenney used to be Conservative PM Stephen Harper's chief henchman and nowadays he's the leader of the right-wing Opposition in Alberta who, despite his protestations to the contrary, keeps having to make excuses for his party's supporters' bad habit of listening too closely to alt-right creeps like Bannon.
Still, to give the guy his due, back in 2009 when he and Harper decided they wanted to keep lefty British member of Parliament George Galloway out of Canada, Kenney acted decisively.
All it took was one email from a Kenney flunky -- with the one-word subject line, "inadmissible" -- to get the national security section of the Canadian Border Services Agency to slam the Canadian door in Galloway's face on the dubious grounds he was a member of a terrorist organization.
It only took 102 minutes from the instant Kenney's communications director, Alykhan Velshi, pressed the send key to the moment the CBSA declared Galloway a threat to Canadian national security, inadmissible to our peaceable country.
According to The Globe and Mail a year later, this was "record speed" for banning an undesirable -- or, rather, someone the PM and his chief lieutenant deemed to be undesirable because Galloway was sure to express opinions they disagreed with.
Galloway, who is no longer an MP, was on his way to a speaking engagement in Canada, by the way, and nobody in Harper's government gave a hang about whether the organizers were going to have to cancel the event or pay anyone back for their tickets.
Fast-forward to the present and everyone in Canada knows perfectly well that letting the odious Bannon take part in the Munk Debate in Toronto provides him with a soapbox from which to proselytize his hateful ideology. (Bannon is supposed to be debating another right winger with White House connections, Canadian-born David Frum, who will represent the more moderate right-wing position. Apparently this is what passes for balance in Munk circles.)
Clearly, Bannon's white-nationalist ideology presents considerably more of a threat to public order and safety in Canada than Galloway did -- as events on January 27 last year in Quebec City and last Saturday in Pittsburgh strongly indicate.
The official excuse of the organizers of the Munk Debate for not cancelling seems to be that the show is sold out -- and wouldn't it be a shame if they had to reimburse their ticket holders? It's reasonable to view that with scorn.
OK, so here's what you do, Mr. Trudeau.
Borrow a page from Kenney's book. Tell Ralph Goodale, your public safety minister, to get someone in his office to pick up the phone and call the CBSA right now and tell them to stop Bannon at the border.
And if the Munk Debate organizers have to reimburse the ticket holders? Well … tough! I mean it. Seriously, how unfortunate for them!
If someone complains you're violating this unpleasant American citizen's free speech rights, remind them of the words of Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. of the United States Supreme Court: "The most stringent protection of free speech would not protect a man falsely shouting fire in a theatre."
If Bannon really wants to talk to Canadians, he can do as Galloway did, and take a bus to Niagara Falls, hold a news conference, and yell across the border. Maybe he can go to court and be admitted later if he posts a peace bond.
Kenney, characteristically, tried to claim that the idea of banning Galloway was the CBSA's, not his, which turned out to be baloney. I wouldn't advise the Liberals to fib like that. They're the government of Canada. Their job is to ensure peace, order and good government. Bannon presents an immediate threat to the first two. He can be declared inadmissible right now with a clear conscience.
There's no excuse for anyone in Ottawa to say they don't know what to do. Kenney showed the way.
Pick up the phone, Prime Minister. You only have until Friday.
Bannon is scheduled to debate conservative commentator David Frum on Friday evening, Nov. 2, at Toronto's Roy Thomson Hall
David Climenhaga, author of the Alberta Diary blog, is a journalist, author, journalism teacher, poet and trade union communicator who has worked in senior writing and editing positions with the Toronto Globe and Mail and the Calgary Herald. This post also appears on David Climenhaga's blog, AlbertaPolitics.ca.
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