British activist once barred from Canada comes to Winnipeg

Controversial George Galloway promotes free speech and ending wars in cross-country talks

Former British MP George Galloway. David Hunt

Labelling George Galloway a terrorist sympathizer and attempting to ban him from entering the country isn’t stopping the Conservative Party of Canada from allowing the controversial former British MP to speak in Winnipeg.

Peace Alliance Winnipeg will host Galloway’s local talk on Friday, Nov. 26 on his pan-Canadian tour “Free Palestine, Free Afghanistan, Free Speech,” which sparked from the opposition to his visiting the country last year.

“The idea that one can be a terrorist while sitting in the British parliament nearly 25 years is a bizarre idea,” Galloway said. “It would make a great movie if it were true.”

A committed opponent of the Iraq war and ousted from the British Labour Party in 2003 for his outspoken views, Galloway is a founding member of Viva Palestina, a charity that sends aid to the Gaza Strip.

Due to this involvement, in March 2009, the office of Jason Kenney, the minister of citizenship, immigration and multiculturalism, took action to bar Galloway from entering Canada.

On Sept. 27, 2010, Galloway and his supporters found justice in Judge Richard Mosley’s ruling.

“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 with any real concern that he had engaged in terrorism or was a member of a terrorist organization,” Mosley said.

As noted on Peace Alliance Winnipeg’s website, in a recent interview on the University of Winnipeg’s campus radio station, Galloway has committed to spending the proceeds of his lawsuit to help fund Canada’s anti-war movement.

Galloway recognizes that his politicized ideas of why the wars exist in Afghanistan, Iraq and the Gaza Strip have outraged many people.

“One was oil,” he said, explaining his perspective on the reasons for the Iraq war specifically. “The second was Israel – Israel was determined to see the only Arab power broken. But above all, more important than the first two, it was to terrify the world with American power.”

It is comments like this that David Matas, senior legal counsel for B’nai Brith Canada, finds disturbing.

Matas, a Nobel Peace Prize nominee in 2010 and author of the book Aftershock: Anti-Zionism and Anti-Semitism, expressed his concern that the rhetoric Galloway produces is dangerous if it goes unchecked.

He believes that Galloway and others like him are one-sided and can cause the demonization of the Jewish people.

“Galloway may be deluded into thinking that he’s trying to make a better world and this is the way to do it, but even if he thinks that, (it) doesn’t excuse him in promoting what he is promoting,” Matas said.

Paul Graham of Peace Alliance Winnipeg believes that because of Winnipeg’s diverse community there is a large interest in what Galloway has to say about stopping the wars and bringing peace to the Middle East.

“We have troops that are fighting in Afghanistan ...  and (we have) people in the Jewish and the Muslim communities ... who take a keen interest in what’s going on the Middle East,” Graham said. “And free speech is something that touches on us all.”

George Galloway will speak Friday, Nov. 26 at 7:30 p.m. at Broadway Disciples United Church (396 Broadway at Kennedy). Admission is $10, or $5 for students, youth and seniors. For the unwaged, admission is pay what you can. No one will be turned away.

Published in Volume 65, Number 13 of The Uniter (November 25, 2010)

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