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Galloway participated in two successful speaking tours in Canada in 2005 and 2006 without incident. In 2009 Galloway was invited to Canada by a coalition of Canadian NGOs and anti-war organizations for a third speaking tour in March and April.
On March 15, critics published an open letter to Minister of Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) Jason Kenney, asking that Galloway be barred from entering Canada.
Kenney’s Director of Communications Alykhan Velshi immediately began to coordinate with CIC officials. Two days later, the Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA) prepared a written assessment that Galloway was inadmissible to Canada because there were reasonable grounds to believe that he had engaged in “terrorism” and was a member of Hamas, which the Canadian government considers a terrorist organization. The next day, Velshi contacted major UK media outlets to inform them that Galloway was inadmissible to Canada on national security and terrorism grounds. Velshi made these statements even though the Canadian Security Intelligence Service had informed the CBSA that they had no security concerns with Galloway’s visit.
Galloway carried out his 2009 speaking engagements from New York via telephone and videoconference for fear that he would be detained by Canadian officials if he tried to cross the border.
Galloway applied to the Federal Court of Canada to challenge the 2009 decision to ban him from Canada. The Canadian Civil Liberties Association intervened.
In its decision, the Federal Court of Canada found that since Galloway did not actually present himself at the border, there was no actual decision to exclude him. The application was dismissed. However, the Court went on to state in a 60 page judgment that Minister Kenney had no reasonable grounds to believe that Galloway was inadmissible to Canada, and no reasonable grounds to believe that Galloway was either a terrorist or a member of terrorist organization. The Court stated that “[t]o characterize the delivery of a convoy of humanitarian aid as…‘financial backing’ amounting to an agreement to participate in the affairs of a terrorist organization is overreaching on the interpretation of the law.”
Further, the Court found that “it is clear that the efforts to keep Mr. Galloway out of the country had more to do with antipathy to his political views than any real concern that he had engaged in terrorism” and that “[n]o consideration appears to have been given to the interests of those Canadians who wish to hear Mr. Galloway speak or the values of freedom of expression and association enshrined in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.”
As a result, in 2010 Galloway undertook a Canada-wide speaking tour to over ten cities, again with the help and coordination of numerous Canadian organizations.
In March 2011 Galloway brought a claim in Ontario Court against Minister Kenney and his Director of Communications for allegedly making false statements about him in order to justify the 2009 inadmissibility decision. The case details the statements made by Kenney’s Director of Communications to the UK and Canadian press to the effect that Galloway is odious, a terrorist, and a threat to national security. Galloway claims that Kenney and his Director of Communications acted with malice and communicated with the media in a calculated effort to disparage him. He is claiming $1 million for defamation and misfeasance in public office and $500,000 for aggravated damages. Galloway states that he has suffered reputational damage, public scandal, embarrassment and ridicule. The allegations of this claim have not yet been proven, and at the time of writing, no legal defense had been filed.
Relevant Dates :
- 2005-2006: Galloway participates in two successful speaking tours in Canada, without incidents.
- 2009: Galloway is invited to give a third speaking tour in Canada, by a coalition of Canadian NGOs.
- 15 March, 2009: an open letter to Minister of Citizenship and Immigration Canada, Jason Kenney, asking Galloway be barred from entering Canada is published.
- 17 March 2009: the Canadian Border Services Agency prepared a written assessment that Galloway was inadmissible to Canada, claiming there were reasonable grounds to believe he had engaged in "terrorism".
- September 2010: Galloway applies to the Federal Court of Canada to challenge the decision to ban him from Canada. However, the Court argued that since Galloway did not present himself at the border, there was no actual decision to ban him, so his application was dismissed. Still, the Court published a document stating that Minister Kenney had no grounds to suspect Galloway of terrorism.
- 2010: Galloway undertakes another Canada-wide speaking tour, with the help of numerous Canadian organizations.
- March 2011: Galloway brings a claim against Minister Kenney and his Director of Communications. He demands compensation for defamation, misfeasance in public office, and aggravated damages.
Role or Position
George Galloway is a former British Member of Parliament (1987-2010). He has an international reputation as a politician, activist and humanitarian. Concerned with the treatment of the Palestinian people in the Israeli-occupied territories of the West Bank and Gaza and the war in Afghanistan, Galloway has spoken about these issues in more than 30 countries, including Canada. In 2009 he was involved in organizing a high profile humanitarian aid envoy, called “Viva Palestina”, in response to the 2008-2009 Israeli bombing of Gaza, resulting in a donation of more than 1 million British pounds in aid and vehicles to the people of Gaza through its elected authority, Hamas.
Implications and Consequences
- Free Speech: The Federal Court’s decision indicates that individuals who advocate on behalf of Palestinian human rights and against the war in Afghanistan do not for that reason alone represent a threat to national security and cannot be banned from Canada on the basis of their political beliefs.
- Democracy: The Federal Court’s decision establishes that humanitarian support for Palestinians does not amount to support for “terrorism”.
- Democracy: Galloway’s claim against Kenney and Velshi sends the message that activists can use the courts to hold Canadian government officials accountable for defamatory statements regarding activists and their political views.
Photo : Matthew Emirzian / Wikipedia, under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported license