George Galloway to defy Canada ban

By Marcus Dysch, March 26, 2009
George Galloway MP in Gaza after the Viva Palestina convoy’s arrival

George Galloway MP in Gaza after the Viva Palestina convoy’s arrival

Controversial British MP George Galloway has vowed to do whatever is possible to enter Canada after its government banned him over fears he could threaten national security.

The decision to stop him entering for a speaking tour was taken after the Jewish Defence League of Canada wrote to the government highlighting Mr Galloway’s support for Hamas.

A spokesman for Canada’s Immigration Minister Jason Kenney said Mr Galloway was an “infandous street-corner Cromwell” deemed “legally inadmissible” under laws designed to protect residents from those who fund, support or engage in terrorism. (A dictionary definition of infandous is “too odious to be expressed or mentioned”.)

The Respect party leader has pledged to challenge the ban in court, calling it “an affront to Canada’s good name” and “an outrageous decision”.

He was due to begin a four-day speaking tour, Resisting War from Gaza to Kandahar, on March 30, organised by the Toronto Coalition to Stop the War.

Meir Weinstein, national director of JDL Canada, said: “We started the ball rolling, sent an open letter to the government and posted it online. It then picked up steam.

“Hizbollah and Hamas are listed by the Canadian government as terrorist organisations. On his website he has written an article saying he glorifies Hizbollah and [its leader, Hassan] Nasrallah. This is not a free speech issue. It’s a point of law issue.”

Mr Galloway responded: “Mr Weinstein does not speak for Canada, but for a group which does not represent the vast majority of Jewish people in Canada”.

Alykhan Velshi, spokesman for Mr Kenney, said a ministerial permit would not be issued. “We’re going to uphold the law, not give special treatment to [someone] who actually brags about giving ‘financial support’ to Hamas, a terrorist organisation banned in Canada.

“I’m sure Galloway has friends in régimes elsewhere in the world willing to roll out the red carpet for him. Canada, however, won’t be one of them.”

Mr Galloway denies providing financial support to Hamas. He led an aid convoy, Viva Palestina, to Gaza. He arrived in the Strip on March 9, and met Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniya .

Mr Galloway’s office said that the MP had handed £25,000 “ to the chair of the official reception committee dealing with aid and charity”. The MP said there was nothing wrong with support going “from one elected politician to another... whatever view you have of Hamas, it forms the elected government chosen freely by the Palestinian people”.

Mr Velshi said the MP’s opposition to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, where Canadian troops are serving, had contributed to the decision.

Mr Galloway, 54, is touring the United States speaking about the Viva Palestina convoy’s mission.

On Tuesday, the Charity Commission launched an inquiry into Viva Palestina, which claims to have raised more than £1 million for relief in Gaza.

But a spokeswoman for the Commission said investigators wanted to be satisfied that the money raised was being used for charitable causes.

She said the Commission had made repeated unsuccessful attempts to contact Viva Palestina and had now decided to launch an inquiry.

It had, she said, “concerns over financial governance arrangements relating to the use of funds”.

A spokesman for Viva Palestina said: “This comes as a complete surprise. We have been in correspondence with the Commission about the campaign and we will be seeking clarification.”

Last updated: 5:13pm, March 26 2009