4.26.2010

"the canadian people know the blood of their soldiers and the treasure of their treasury is being spent in a doomed enterprise"

As I type this, Canadians who love free speech and democracy are gathering in front of the Federal Court building in Toronto. (I'm so disappointed to not be there, but this one was just impossible for me.) After the rally, supporters will pack the courtroom to witness George Galloway's suit against the Canadian government for refusing him entry to Canada last year.

Galloway and his legal team - through a government error - gained access to 66 pages of government emails and supporting documents demonstrating how Alykhan Velshi, Jason Kenney's communications director, took a special interest in keeping Galloway out of Canada, misinterpreting Canadian law to reflect his political point of view.
From the first e-mail that Mr. Kenney's communications director, Alykhan Velshi, sent on March 16, 2009, at 2:09 p.m. to immigration bureaucrats – the subject line was "inadmissible" – only 102 minutes passed before an official in the National Security section of the CBSA had agreed that Mr. Galloway should be barred for being a member of a terrorist organization.

Monday's arguments in a legal case contesting the government move will raise a host of crucial questions for Canada's immigration system. Mr. Galloway insists he was never a member of Hamas, and he's being barred for his political and pro-Palestinian views.

But the court record has already revealed much about how the Galloway affair began: not in routine work by security officials, but because it was triggered by political aides, then pushed quickly by high-ranking officials, and approved by the Prime Minister's Office.

Unsurprisingly, the Government tried to keep these revealing documents out of court on "national security" grounds, but the judge wasn't buying.

The Globe and Mail has a brief Q&A with Galloway about Canada's decision.
The thrust of the ban is that you support terrorist organizations. What do you say to that?

Well, I'm five times elected to the British Parliament and I travel freely and widely in the United States of America. So that can hardly be true, can it? The British Parliament would not have a terrorist in it and the United States of America would not admit a terrorist. So to be banned from Canada, it's just preposterous.

You were recently booted from Egypt, too.

I was declared a persona non grata by the dictatorship in Egypt because I showed the world that they are the reason why there is a siege on Gaza. I'm content to be banned from Egypt because that's a dictatorship, but I’m not content to be banned from Canada, because that isn't.

The Canadian government says you gave about $45,000 to Hamas and that's part of why you shouldn't be allowed here.

I didn't give any money to Hamas, I gave it to the ministry of health in Gaza to pay for the salaries of the doctors and nurses who hadn't been paid. By the way, we're talking about 20 odd thousand pounds, not millions. It's a symbolic donation. I gave it to the ministry of health in Gaza and I'm proud to have done so.

What are your views on Hamas?

It's all in the court documents. I have never been a supporter of Hamas, I am not a supporter of Hamas now. On the contrary, I was with President Arafat for the best years of my life, from 1983 until the day that he died in Palestine, I was at his bedside. So, I'm sorry but it's all nonsense. As the revelations of these documents prove, this was a political job.

Jim Wright, Canada's high commissioner in Britain, has said you're "not taken seriously in the U.K. and that denying [you] entry to Canada will simply give [you] a greater platform?" Does that reveal further motives for barring you?

If you want my honest opinion, I think the Canadian government is more afraid of my views on Afghanistan than they were on my views on Palestine. The Canadian people know that the blood of their soldiers is being spent and the treasure of their treasury is being spent in a doomed enterprise. And I'm far from not being taken seriously. I'm surely to be elected for the sixth time. I am the leader of an anti-war movement in Britain that is millions strong.

What are your impressions of Canada as a nation and how might they differ from your reaction to this case?

Well, as a Scotsman, and Canada being a place where very many Scottish people immigrated, I always regarded Canada, to which I've travelled often, as a home away from home. It was the kinder, gentler, North American state. But I'm afraid the Harper government has made it the last bout of Bush-ism on the continent.

How has this situation become a battle for free speech as well as a pursuit of human rights and political justice?

Well, I addressed all the audiences and more than I was going to address if I had been allowed into Canada. I just did it by the technology that is today available. And I achieved the remarkable thing, really, of packing thousands of people into halls and churches to watch a video screen and watch someone broadcasting from New York. And the irony was not lost – I'm banned from Canada, but I'm broadcasting from New York. It's just ridiculous.

4 comments:

Stephanie said...

So I have just caught Sandra Ruch (who is there) on FB via twitter that the case is postponed till Wednesday 10 am.

L-girl said...

Thanks, Steph. Damn, what a disappointment in terms of filling the courtroom, but I guess that's always the risk with court actions.

On the selfish side, maybe I can go on Wedsnesday! :)

Stephanie said...

I thought you might find this interesting and even hopeful!

I was hoping you might be able to go on Wednesday too this way I get to *hope* for a somewhat more detailed report than what I might otherwise have access to. :P

L-girl said...

Ah-ha! :)

Weds is a definite possibility.