Banned no more

George Galloway speaks in Vancouver


by James Clark

 

George Galloway speaking
George Galloway

Eighteen months ago, Minister of Citizenship and Immigration Jason Kenney blocked then-British MP George Galloway from Canada, labelling him a terror supporter and a national security risk. At the time, Galloway was scheduled to appear in four Canadian cities on a speaking tour called “Resisting War: From Gaza to Afghanistan.”

Galloway and his supporters protested, saying the move was a crass political attempt to silence criticism of Canadian foreign policy on Afghanistan and Palestine. Weeks before the ban, Galloway had led a humanitarian aid convoy to Gaza as part of an international campaign to break Israel’s illegal blockade.

In September, after Federal Court Justice Richard Mosley issued his 60-page decision on the matter, Galloway and his supporters were fully vindicated. But you’d never know it from reading mainstream media’s response to the decision. Most headlines declared that Galloway “lost” his appeal because the judge dismissed the case. Justice Mosley ruled that, since Galloway had not been denied entry into Canada at the border, a final decision on his admissibility had not been made. This meant that Justice Mosley had no decision to overturn. Consequently, Justice Mosley dismissed the case, but not before agreeing with every other claim made by Galloway and his supporters. This is what most mainstream media seems to have missed.

The ruling is a victory for three reasons:First, it exposes and documents the Conservatives’ attacks on Canadians’ free-speech rights. Galloway and his supporters argued that Kenney’s decision was purely a political one that had nothing to do with national security. Justice Mosley agrees: “[T]he evidence is that the government wished to prevent Mr. Galloway from expounding his views on Canadian soil. I agree with the applicants that, based on the evidence of the e-mails and public statements in the record, the concern with Galloway’s anticipated presence in Canada related solely to the content of the messages that the respondents [the government] expected him to deliver.”

Justice Mosley also acknowledges that the “highest levels of government” tried to influence the outcome of a potential admissibility assessment by the Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA) at a Canadian port of entry: “It is also clear that the preliminary assessment was prepared with the intention that it be used to justify a CBSA officer’s determination that Mr. Galloway was inadmissible should he appear at the border.”

This vindicates Galloway’s concerns that he would be deemed inadmissible at the border, which is what he was told in a letter from the Canadian High Commission before he left the UK. Galloway was right to worry about the possibility of being detained indefinitely at the Canadian border or, worse, being returned to the US (where he was conducting a speaking tour at the time) for being a “national security risk” in Canada – an event that would have jeopardized his status on American soil.

The second reason the ruling is a victory for Galloway is because it paves the way for his return to Canada. Should Galloway turn up at a Canadian point of entry – something that Galloway is expected to do very soon – a CBSA officer will have to rule on his admissibility. In light of the decision, it will be impossible for an officer to deem Galloway inadmissible based on the politically compromised preliminary assessment. The ruling should be seen as a warning to the government to end its political interference to block Galloway’s entry to Canada.

The ruling unequivocally dismisses the government’s claims that Galloway is a national security threat or a supporter of terrorism. Justice Mosley writes: “From the evidence on the record, the question of Galloway’s admissibility was never an issue of national security. As indicated above, CSIS was consulted prior to the writing of the CBSA assessment and had no national security concerns about his visit.”

During the Federal Court hearing, it became clear that Jason Kenney’s director of communications, Alykhan Velshi, the staffer who set the ban in motion, did not include CSIS’s findings in the preliminary assessment.

Justice Mosley also slams how the government made its assessment: “The assessment is not reasonable, in my view, as it overreaches in its interpretation of the facts, errs in its application of the law and fundamentally fails to take into account the purposes for which Galloway provided aid to the people of Gaza through the Hamas government. I think it necessary to discuss my reasons for this conclusion in some detail to assist the parties should the question of Mr. Galloway’s admissibility arise again.” In addition, Justice Mosley dismisses the government’s familiar refrain that Galloway’s humanitarian support for the people of Gaza is the same as support for terrorism.

By these criteria, even though the application was ultimately dismissed, the ruling sides overwhelmingly with Galloway and his supporters. The government and its backers in the press may try to spin it as a defeat for Galloway, but they really have nothing to cheer about: the government’s political interference has been exposed and condemned, the door is now open for Galloway to return to Canada and the government’s unfounded allegations against Galloway have been dismissed.

Galloway returns to Canada for a 10-city tour (November 17-28) to deliver the message he was prevented from delivering in person 18 months ago. It is up to us to hold Kenney to account for this most recent abuse of government power. Let’s not miss this opportunity.

James Clark is a member of the Toronto Coalition to Stop the War and an applicant in the case brought by supporters of George Galloway against the Government of Canada. Originally published at rabble.ca. Reprinted with permission.


George Galloway speaks in Vancouver

Nov. 22, 7:30pm
St. Andrew’s-Wesley United Church (Burrard & Nelson).
Tickets $15 or $10/unwaged or low-income. Available at People’s Coop Bookstore (1391 Commerical Dr). Organized locally by the StopWar.ca Coalition, co-sponsored by the Seriously Free Speech Committee and Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights UBC. National tour sponsors include the Canadian Peace Alliance, the Canadian Boat to Gaza, the Canadian Arab Federation and Independent Jewish Voices. Toronto talk: November 20. Calgary talk: Nov 23. For a complete list of speaking engagements, visit www.rabble.ca. Search for George Galloway November 2010. For more info, email stopwar@resist.ca