Revelations and contradictions were flying around the courtroom during Wednesday’s hearing into the ban of the British MP George Galloway from Canada.
Government of Canada lawyers argued at the Ontario federal court in Toronto that Galloway was not actually banned from Canada, though they retained their original position that he should be considered a supporter of terrorism for the convoy of aid he took to Gaza from England in March 2009.
Most of the aid, which included medical equipment, vehicles and money, were handed to the Red Crescent, with the equivalent of $38,000 going to elected Palestinian officials for relief work. The current ruling part in Palestine is Hamas, a banned organization in Canada.
The Ministry of Health in Gaza submitted documents to the court itemizing what Galloway had brought them or what they had purchased with his donated cash. The latter included incubators and dialysis machines.
Galloway’s lawyer, Barbara Jackman, said the Canadian government, too, gave millions of dollars of humanitarian aid to Gazans and added that Galloway and the federal government were on equal footing in this situation.
James Clark, of the Toronto Coalition to Stop the War and one of the organizers of the cancelled four-city speaking tour which Galloway was prevented from making, said that the government’s lawyer said that under Section 34 of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, it was within the federal government’s rights to interpret these donations as material support for Hamas.
But Clark added that the government’s lawyers confusingly claimed that despite this no decision to ban the British MP had ever been made.
“They said he would have to come to the Canadian border, even with the threat of being detained, and that would be the only way a decision would be made [whether to formally ban him or not]. There were some questions from the judge about what recourse Galloway would have to challenge the substance of the decision,” Clark said.
One of the bigger revelations Wednesday was that the Canadian intelligence agency CSIS did not recommend banning Galloway.
“Our lawyer said that CSIS sent a report saying that Galloway was not a threat and they had no objection to him coming to Canada,” said Clark.
Clark added the attempt to redact 66 pages of important emails and other documents relating to the case on national security grounds were noted on the record at the beginning of the hearing, saying it had been a difficult process to get full disclosure of events leading up to the ban.
“All these documents are public and show that Jason Kenney’s office clearly had a role in initiating this process and influencing it.”
Kenney has previously denied in the media and in the House of Commons any involvement in the Galloway case, suggesting that it would be political interference in a legal process.
Wednesday’s one-day hearing was for oral submissions; most of the case will be based on written submissions. Federal Court Judge Richard Mosley will take approximately a month to read through the several thousand pages of submissions before coming to his decision, said Clark.
In an interview from London with rabble.ca on Wednesday, Galloway said it was “deeply insulting to the intelligence of the Canadian people” to say someone with his background was a terrorist, adding that while he had support Yasser Arafat’s Fatah Party for many years, he had never supported Hamas.
“I’ve been confident all along that Canada remains a country governed by law, rather than the capricious whim of here-today-gone-tomorrow politicians,” Galloway said.
“I was always confident and still am confident that the court will grant permission because really all we’re asking is to have a say. People don’t have to agree with it, and many will not. But the Canadian people have a right to hear, and hear not down a crackling telephone line but face-to-face, where they can ask questions and engage in the debate.”
Galloway, who represents Bethnal Green and Bow in east London for the Respect Party, said he had travelled to Canada numerous times before the ban, visiting Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal and Vancouver.
Cathryn Atkinson is rabble.ca’s news and features editor.