UK firebrand politician allowed into Canada

Sat Oct 2, 10:37 PM
By Maria Babbage, The Canadian Press

TORONTO – A defiant George Galloway says he may take another run at legal action against Immigration Minister Jason Kenney for branding him a terrorist and trying to muzzle his anti-war views. The outspoken former British MP, who landed in Toronto Saturday, came out swinging against his political nemesis.

He said he wants “redress” from Kenney, accusing the cabinet minister of putting his life at risk. “I’m not being melodramatic,” Galloway said. “There are crazy people in the world who — if I really was, really were the person Jason Kenney painted me as — might have thought themselves fully justified in putting a bullet in me.” Galloway said he’ll go into more details about the “searing” and “surreal” turn his life took after Kenney deemed him a security risk when he speaks Sunday in Toronto.

The speech will also focus on how the Canadian government is using anti-terrorism as an excuse to suppress legitimate political debate, he said. By trying to keep him out of Canada, Kenney has only managed to attract more attention to his anti-war views, Galloway said.

“He’s damaged Canada’s reputation,” he said. “I don’t know if it’s because he’s a fool or a knave. I’m not sure which would be worse, but I am sure that Canada deserves better than that.”

Galloway, who cleared customs over an hour after his plane landed, was greeted by dozens of chanting, sign-waving supporters at the airport. He said he was quizzed at length by three immigration officials, but found them to be professional and polite. Galloway was scheduled to speak in Canada in March 2009 about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, but aborted the tour after Ottawa said he would likely be denied entry. The government cited his dealing with Gaza’s elected Hamas government, which Canada considers a terrorist organization. Earlier this week, a Federal Court judge found the Conservative government had acted politically to suppress his opinions. Galloway said Kenney’s terrorist allegation cost him his long-held seat in the U.K. House of Commons in May, hampered his ability to travel and created anxiety and stress for him and his family. He abandoned a libel suit against Kenney on the grounds that it was proving too expensive to fight, but said Saturday he will consult his Canadian lawyers and examine his legal options.

“I’m very happy to be in Canada, and my presence proves that Canada remains a country governed by laws, not by ‘here today, gone tomorrow’ politicians and their whims,” he said.

Brandishing signs condemning Kenney the “Minister for Censorship and Deportation,” Galloway supporters said they’re outraged by the government’s attempts to suppress free speech. “All he is doing is delivering aid — ambulances, incubators, hospital supplies, wheelchairs, that kind of thing — to the people of Gaza who have been under siege and are living in deplorable conditions,” said 29-year-old student Fava Zaharuk, who volunteers with the Toronto Coalition to Stop the War. “And it’s for this that we’re banning him from speaking in Canada? I don’t want that kind of government.”

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