Saturday, March 21, 2009

The multiple double standards in the banning of George Galloway

George Galloway's banning from Canada by Immigration Minister Jason Kenney simply because the former was trying to carry £1 million of humanitarian supplies into the Gaza Strip, an area presently ruled by the democratically elected party (and listed terrorist group) Hamas, has really worked up a lather with most of my fellow ProgBloggers who have written about it: Maxwell Devin, Cliff Hesby, David Climenhaga, Bernadette Wagner, and Scott Tribe, just to name a few. Of course, the Conservatives don't have a monopoly on banning entry to those who rub them the wrong way, the Liberals did the same to Louis Farrakhan some years ago. But I disagreed with that decision (despite Farrakhan's well known anti-Semitic views) and I have to disagree with this one.

My opinion is along with the majority of my fellow (and more articulate) progressive blogging scribes: Let the guy into Canada so he can speak. Here's my sense:

He's a loudmouth, to be certain, but he poses no threat to Canada's national security. He threatens our law and order as much as Don Cherry threatens club-level ice hockey in Europe. They're never going to take his pro-fighting stance seriously (and as a journalist, if you can call him that, he can travel to any EU country so he can bash the Europeans he hates so much); any more than we would take to heart Galloway's more bombastic opinions about the situation in the Middle East and South Asia. He's wrong about much of it, but that doesn't mean he's dangerous.

For what it's worth he's also pretty inconsisent on GBLT issues: He voted to lower the age of consent for homosexuals to the same age as that of heterosexuals (21 to 16) and supports adoption rights for gay and unmarried couples, but has also taken donations from anti-gay groups.

To place Galloway in the same company as Osama Bin Laden is ridiculous. For Mr. Kenney to compare Galloway to Oliver Cromwell is laughable. (The expression used was "an infandous street corner Cromwell." I didn't even know "infandous" was a word -- but I looked it up and it means "too odious to be expressed or mentioned." Even the NY Times, which seldom mentions Canada, got a howl out of that one, and noted the word hasn't been regularly used since 1708 -- incidentally the same year Queen Anne I vetoed an Act of Parliament and the last time a royal veto has been used in the UK.) We've seen some of our citizens say some incendiary things, Don Cherry for one, but you don't see other countries banning them from travelling there. And when you limit what outsiders can say, going to the point of banning them even from sending accredited reporters to tell the story, it's only a few steps away from limiting what your own citizens can say, which inevitably happens.

Just ask the people who live in any country run by a dictatorship. Burma and Zimbabwe on an ongoing basis, for instance, where humanitarian aid is also routinely denied or confiscated by army officials. Or what happened in Beijing in 1989 after the reporters were forced to leave.

Using the same logical fallacies used to ban Mr. Galloway, one could suggest that George W. Bush should not have been allowed into Canada this week to make a speech in Calgary for starting a war that killed tens of thousands of civilians and made the humanitarian crisis there even worse -- but he was.

It can often be hard to separate a group's political and humanitarian aims. When the group is outlawed by Canada, the United States, and the European Union, it should raise more than a few alarm bells. (That's why when there is a major disaster, I usually find it safer to donate to the Red Cross or the Salvation Army, because of the general political neutrality of both in relief efforts.) But to classify the whole Gaza population as lovers of terror is wrong. To call Galloway a supporter of terror because he genuinely wants to help Gazans is stupid.

The powers that be couldn't make anything stick to him on Oil for Food because there was no story there -- the documents that maligned him were forged.

Prove that he has actually trained in a terror camp with Hamas or Hezbollah, or that he supplied arms to them, then you might convince me. Right now, there is no proof that even meets the sniff test. If Canada still had grand juries, they'd laugh the "evidence" right out of court and issue a no true bill.

There's no question there are some people who shouldn't be allowed into Canada -- a whole slew of terrorists and criminals come to mind. I don't know how long our banned list is (the number is an "official secret" but I suppose it is probably in the tens of thousands or higher, since the Schengen list of "undesirables" banned entry to the European open border zone presently totals over one million.)

And it's not like there's a precedent for personnae non grata being granted entry here -- Gerry Adams of Sinn Féin has been repeatedly allowed into Canada despite well-reputed links to the IRA, and there's no doubt that some Basque leaders who support ETA's have slipped in as the legitimate "political wing" representatives of the otherwise outlawed group. (Most Basques, it should be pointed out, are completely opposed to ETA's tactics; they want greater autonomy for their corner currently in Spain and France but not in that way.)

Canada has a large Tamil community, and many of its members regularly send remittances to the political arm of LTTE, which is an outlawed terrorist group if for no other reason than their use of child soldiers during the bloody civil war. Protesting the conditions their brothers and sisters are living in right now as the Sri Lanka army has pretty much cornered the Tamil community on the island should not be seen as terroristic -- but apparently, the Conservative government seems to think differently since Tiger flags were flown at the protest last weekend, even though you can easily get one of those flags on Craigslist or eBay.

And, the Cons seem to think that Omar Khadr, whose status at Gitmo is still up in the air, is not a child soldier. There's a nice double standard for you right there.

But Galloway certainly doesn't fit the bill. And even if he did, you just don't change the rules mid-course to satisfy your own political ends. I find much of what he stands for repulsive.

But this is just reactionism by the incumbent Canadian government, plain and simple. I say let him in and speak. To deny him just gives him the publicity he seeks. (And it also makes Canada a laughing stock, which is why I selected "humour" as one of the tags for this entry.)

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Anonymous said...

OT,Iggy calls to wish Mulroney a happy birthday?

This is not good.

BlastFurnace said...

Well, at least Iggy was being respectful to a guy who actually understood the meaning of the word progressive . Even Peter Mackay has seemed to forget -- and if one of the opposition leaders were to suddenly die, the odds would be a hundred to one that Harper would show up, how much he hates all three of them.

penlan said...

Well said & thought out post, Robert. I am very concerned with this incident & what Kenney has/hasn't done. This is definitely autocratic/totalitarian & will trickle down into other realms of Canadian life if these idiots continue to be in a position of power.

We need an election as soon as possible to get rid of harper & his thugs.

BlastFurnace said...

Penlan, thanks again. I can't wait for Iggy to pull the trigger -- but I'm not holding my breath. It will be the fall at the very least, if at all.

Fakirs Canada said...

Galloway has expressed support for the Taliban and on an Islamic site, he admitted to providing financial support for Hamas, which has been classified as a terrorist organization both in Canada and in Britain.

Galloway is an MP. If he doesn't like the laws, he can work to change them - that's his right.

He doesn't have the right to thumb his nose at the laws, any more than you or I do.

We have enough terrorist supporters hiding among and feeding off of sincere human-rights activists in Canada. Let Galloway stay banned. Bravo to Jason Kenney and CSIS for having the guts to do what nobody else has the moral convictions to do.

BlastFurnace said...

Well, FC, you're entitled to your opinion and we'll just have to disagree -- but that's what makes Canada so great.

Anonymous said...

Suggest you read Howard Anglin's piece in Thursday March 20th's
0ttawa Citizen entitled "Omar Khadr is not a Child Soldier."I have said this all along.He is exactly where he belongs.As far as Galloway is concerned,do we really need this terrorist supporter and hate monger in Canada?

Fakirs Canada said...

Thank you. Galloway is entitled to his opinion, too, and even to voicing it in Canada. But I think he has given CSIS reasonable grounds for concern that his agenda in Canada includes more than just talking about Hamas, Hezbollah and the Taliban.

With respect to Omar Khadr: it really doesn't matter whether he was a child soldier or a child terrorist. He was a child. When he is convicted, and he will be, the Transfer of Offenders Act will kick in with respect to the priority it gives to the interests of minors who are convicted; and Canada should call for his repatriation.

Of course, Canada should have called for his repatriation last June, after the May 2008 SCC ruling on his case:

I was of the opinion for a long time that it was because Harper is afraid of a lawsuit regarding the egregious violations of Omar's rights, in which Canadian Foreign Affairs officials were complicit.

Now, however, I am inclined to suspect that the reason may have something to do with CSIS concerns regarding the environment to which Omar would be returning.

Anonymous said...

Khadr has been charged in a court of law,by the Americans..But the law makes distinctions..He is deemed by the Americans to be a child terrorist NOT a child soldier and that will make his return to Canada impossible ..If you really care what happens to Khadr,you should plead to the Americans to grant him a court date and tell his team of lawyers to prepare for court...Just drop all this wishful thinking about re-patriation,the Edney plan,Facebook profiles etc... The sooner Khadr goes to trial,the sooner his fate will be known!