British MP loses bid to enter Canada
Galloway to appear at speaking event by video after Federal Court denies request for injunction
The Canadian Press
March 30, 2009 at 8:41 PM EDT
TORONTO — A court decision Monday upholding a ban on George Galloway from entering the country amid allegations he engaged in terrorist acts will see the British MP deliver speeches to Canadian audiences via a live video link from New York.
Following the Federal Court ruling, organizers of Mr. Galloway’s now aborted speaking tour said the maverick politician would not attempt to enter Canada.
“We’re not interested in doing anything illegal whatsoever,” said James Clark, a peace activist and one of the speaking tour’s organizers.
“Our expectations were such that we were already implementing Plan B, which was to make sure that he can still deliver the speech from a live broadcast.”
British politician George Galloway sits with Palestinian students near their school, the al-Fadelah Islamic school, destroyed during Israel’s 22-day offensive that ended in January, in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on March 11, 2009. (Ibraheem Abu Mustafa/Reuters)
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From the archives
Mr. Galloway had been set to visit Toronto on Monday, the first of four scheduled speaking engagements in Canada.
The Canada Border Services Agency advised Mr. Galloway, in a letter dated March 20, that he had been deemed inadmissible to Canada on the grounds he allegedly engaged in terrorist activities.
The MP has denied such links although he has openly voiced support for the Palestinian cause and was part of a group that delivered financial and other assistance to Gaza.
Mr. Galloway and supporters asked Federal Court on Sunday for an emergency injunction allowing him to come, pending the possibility of a judicial review of the government’s position.
However, Justice Luc Martineau ruled Monday he was not in a position to allow Mr. Galloway into the country although he did say there were “serious issues to be tried” if the judicial review occurs.
“The arguments raised by the applicants are not frivolous or vexatious,” Martineau ruled. “However, a proper factual record and the benefit of full legal argument . . . are lacking at the present time.”
The decision represented a “partial victory” in that the court did recognize there was a serious issue at stake, Mr. Clark said.
“We want to pursue and examine all the questions that have come up about how and why the (border agency) preemptorily issued this ruling of inadmissibility to Mr. Galloway,” Mr. Clark said.
Mr. Galloway planned to deliver his speeches to Toronto, Mississauga, Ont., Montreal and Ottawa this week from a studio in New York City.
In the letter to Mr. Galloway, the government said he had given $45,000 to Hamas, which is a banned terrorist organization in Canada.
Under Canada’s Anti-Terrorism Act, it is an offence to knowingly participate in or contribute to any activity of a terrorist group.
His supporters say Mr. Galloway had given money to the head of the government in Gaza but not to the head of Hamas, even though they are the same person.
Canadian Jewish Congress CEO Bernie Farber said the fact Mr. Galloway would still broadcast what he had to say showed that free speech was not at stake.
In a release, the congress said Canadians understand that “fundraising for international terrorism puts us all at risk here at home.”
“Canada must not be regarded as a piggybank for international terrorist financiers like George Galloway,” the release stated.
Mr. Clark called the suggestion that Mr. Galloway was soliciting Canadian donations to support terrorism “absurd.”
The money raised by the events will go toward organizing them, logistics for the video feeds for Galloway, and a possible legal challenge.
“Beyond that, we are unapologetic if we do decide to fundraise for the people of Gaza,” Mr. Clark said.
“It’s not illegal in this country or around the world to raise funds for humanitarian relief.”
About 500 people filled a downtown church for the broadcast of the speech Monday. Tickets were $15 with a discount for students and seniors.
The government, in its letter to Mr. Galloway, did not make the allegation that he was coming to Canada to raise funds for terrorism.
The British legislator is no stranger to controversy.
In 2007, the British Parliament’s lower house suspended him based on accusations he concealed his financial dealings with deposed Iraqi president Saddam Hussein’s government.
Mr. Galloway was suspended for 18 days following an investigation which found that a charity he set up was partly funded by the now-executed Iraqi dictator.
He accused his opponents of hypocrisy, saying none of the political parties in the House had ever asked people who gave them money where it came from.
In 2005, Mr. Galloway created a spectacle on Capitol Hill by denouncing U.S. senators while voluntarily testifying under oath before the committee. He called the panel of senators a “lickspittle Republican committee” and accused them of “the mother of all smoke screens.”
After he was expelled from the Labour party for urging British soldiers not to fight in Iraq, Mr. Galloway formed his own party, Respect, and won re-election to the Commons in 2005.