George Galloway, an elected member of the British House of Commons and an outspoken critic of the Iraq and Afghan wars, was banned from entering Canada for a planned speaking tour last week, which was scheduled to include the University of Toronto Mississauga (UTM) on March 31.
The Immigration Department barred Galloway from entering the country on the basis of the recent humanitarian mission that Galloway led into the Gaza strip, after heavy Israeli attacks last month. As a result of that, he is considered to be providing aid to terrorist groups.
The Minister of Immigration, Jason Kenney, has the legislative power to overrule this recommendation and grant a special visa — however, he has steadfastly refused to do so. “In this case, I believe folks that are supporting and promoting and helping terrorist organizations are not needed to visit Canada,” Kenney said from Calgary.
These statements, not to mention the overall message of banning a foreign politician whose views are not in-line with the neo- Conservative ideology of the Harper administration, have been widely panned by journalists, politicians and experts across the country.
New Democrat MP Olivia Chow (Trinity-Spadina) called the government’s decision to bar Galloway an attack on free speech, noting that “once you start censoring what Canadians can or cannot hear, [you have] a dangerous slippery slope with unintended consequences,” she said. Errol Mendes, an expert on human rights law at the University of Ottawa, expressed concern to the Montreal Gazette that the broadly worded language in anti-terrorism laws will allow governments to implement other political agendas.
The last thing any of our leaders should be doing is using it for domestic ideological and political purposes, he said. Mendes also pointed out that various Canadian and American NGOs have delivered aid to the Hamas government in Gaza and no ones gone after them. The Gaza Coalition, with the support of the UTM Student Union (UTMSU), Ministry of Social Justice, UTM NDP (to name a few) is holding a meeting on Monday March 23 in order to formulate ways to protest the ban against Galloway.
According to third-year anthropology and biology student Steven Zhou, who stresses that he is speaking only for himself, students can make a difference; we have the right and duty to respond to Kenney’s irresponsible and detrimental policies. He believes that the governments actions are targeting immigrants and Muslims, by blatantly favouring Israels interests over the Palestinians. If we do not use all the means in our disposal to lift this ban, and proceed immediately to a video broadcast, the absurdity of the ban itself would have gone by without aggressive challenges from the citizens of Canada, Zhou pointed out.
UTMSU VP External Dhanajai (DJ) Kholi noted that the UTM speaking event planned for March 31, organized by the Toronto Coalition to Stop the War and UTMSU, is still going ahead, and tickets are still being sold and purchased. We are quite confident that we will be able to reverse this unconstitutional decision, and have George Galloway complete his Canadian speaking tour. He added that if the ban remains in place, arrangements have been made to show Galloway through simulcast instead, and that anybody who wishes a refund on their ticket will receive one.
To be perfectly honest, I would have to say that I dont think this ban is ideologically driven, and the reason I say that is because of the amount of protest that is coming from within the Conservative party itself, argued Kholi. I mean, you have the National Post, a newspaper that is very well-known for its conservative standpoint, saying that this ban is wrong. In all honesty, this scenario seems like the work of one man, Jason Kenney, who is getting drunk on his power. Galloway himself has responded to the ban by the Canadian government, vowing to fight the ban in court. Thats the way the right-wing, last-ditch dead-enders of Bushism in Ottawa conduct their business, he wrote in Saturdays issue of the Guardian.