Canada bans pro-Palestinian politician

March 28, 2009

Canada's Conservative government has extended its attacks on the right to free speech.

In a story that was first leaked to the London Sun on March 20, British MP for the left-wing Respect party, George Galloway, was banned from entering the country to complete a North American speaking tour after being brandished a "security threat".

The decision was made by Citizenship and Immigration Canada and the immigration minister Jason Kenney has made it clear he will not overturn it.

Galloway is an outspoken anti-war activist and a strong supporter of the Palestinian struggle against Israeli occupation. He helped organise and participated in an "aid convoy" from Britain to Gaza that arrived on March 9 to deliver more than £1 million in desperately needed humanitarian aid to the Gazan authorities.

Galloway was scheduled to do four speaking engagements in Canada including at the "Resisting War from Gaza to Kandahar" conference, in Toronto. It was to follow his speaking tour of the United States which has gone ahead.

It is clear the decision was based on Galloway's support for the Palestinian struggle. Galloway told CBC News on March 22: "This is a misuse of the war on terror. This is a misuse of security concerns in service of what is clearly a political act to try to gag me."

He added: "But I don't think it'll succeed."

The decision was hailed by pro-Israeli organisations, including the Jewish Defense League, B'nai Brith and the Canadian Jewish Congress.

On March 20, Jewish Defence League Canada director, Meir Weinstein, in reference to Galloway's opposition to Israel's wars on Gaza and Lebanon, said told Britain's Channel 4: "Any man who supports Hamas the way [Galloway] does and supports Hezbollah the way he does is in favour of teaching children to be suicide bombers ..."

Weinsten also explained that if organisers of the planned public meetings tried to set up replacement meetings, "we will see to it that the Canadian government will be monitoring every individual and organisation that will have anything to do with it".

Weinstein also threatened to investigate potential "terrorist links" of the organisers of the tour, which includes the Stop the War Coalition and the Uniting Church.

This isn't the first time in recent history that the Canadian government has sought to prevent anti-war activists from entering the country.

In October 2007, US-based Codepink and Global Exchange activists were not admitted into Canada as a result having been arrested during acts of non-violent civil disobedience during an anti-war rally.

The decision comes on the back of the Conservative government's decision to cut off funding to the Canadian Arab Federation (CAF).

After threatening CAF with ceasing funding on the grounds of "objectionable statements", Kenney has announced he will not renew a two-year, $2.1-million contract for immigrant language instruction provided by the CAF, reported Canwest on March 19.

As letter from the minister to CAF president Khaled Mouammar, obtained by the Canwest, explained: "As you are also aware, serious concerns have arisen with respect to certain public statements that have been made by yourself or other officials of the CAF."

Mouammar has been an outspoken critic of the Canadian government's support for Israel and for the war in Afghanistan.

With Canada deciding to join Israel and the US in boycotting the Durban Anti-Racism conference over its criticism of Israel, the further rightwards moving trajectory of the Conservative government is clear.

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