Galloway Stirs Up Montreal

Former British MP George Galloway was barred from Canada for “political reasons” in 2009. Photo by Jessie Mathieson

Former British MP George Galloway criticized the Harper government’s support of what he called the Israeli siege of Palestine in front of a packed house at Montreal’s Université de Québec à Montréal last Wednesday.

Galloway’s speech, entitled “Free Palestine. Free Afghanistan. Free Speech,” was originally meant to be part of a five-city tour before the former MP was banned from coming to Canada in 2009, an issue that Galloway addressed with humour.

“The books that you ban always make the bestseller list,” he said, adding that because of the controversy surrounding the ban, Galloway will now speak in 10 Canadian cities in front of larger crowds than initially expected.

Immigration Minister Jason Kenney barred Galloway from entering Canada in March 2009. The minister denied Galloway on the premise of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act 34(1), claiming the former British MP was a danger to Canadian security and associated with terrorists.

Galloway contributed money to Hamas’ Health Minister in January 2009, when he helped fund a humanitarian convoy in an attempt to break the Israeli military’s naval blockade of Gaza.

Because Hamas is considered a terrorist organization, Galloway drew the ire of the Harper government.
Although the Canadian Security Services sent an internal letter to the federal government informing them that Galloway was not a threat, Kenney allegedly kept the letter from the courts and the public.

Galloway challenged Kenney’s decision and the case was brought before the Federal Court of Canada. The court decided that Kenney’s decision was politically motivated and Galloway was allowed to go forward with his tour.

Now he is stirring up Canadian audiences with his contentious stance on Israel.

Canadians, Galloway said, should stop treating Israel like a “legitimate member of the international community and start treating it like the international rogue terrorist state that it has become.”

Nearly two million Palestinians have been pushed from their home and currently live in the “open-air concentration camp” in the Gaza strip, said Galloway.

There, he continued, they have been punished with illegal chemical weapons for how they voted in the free, democratic election.

He also condemned the Governments of the US, Canada and Britain and all other countries involved in the war in Afghanistan, calling the military conflict pointless.

“No one has successfully occupied Afghanistan,” he said, pointing to studies that estimate two out of three trained Afghan forces defect, often to the terrorists, because of financial reasons.

Throughout the evening, Galloway addressed the accusation that he associates with terrorists and supports terrorism.

“We are against acts of terrorism. We are against maiming and killing innocent people for the crimes of guilty people,” he said. “The difference between us and them is that we believe terrorism is terrorism whether it is carried out by a man in a turban with a beard [in] Tora Bora, or a man with a suit in the White House, or in Ottawa, or in any of the other imperial capitals of the world.”

Ticket sales from Galloway’s speech will go toward the sailing of the Freedom Flotilla 2, a boat with aid supplies destined for the Palestinian people living in Gaza. The Canadian Boat to Gaza working group organized the tour as a fundraiser for the flotilla. They work with many non-governmental organizations such as Alternatives, Boycott Divestment and Sanctions, and Québec Solidaire among others.

At the Galloway speech, the host and founding member of Alternatives Stephan Corriveau said they have raised $125,000 of the $300,000 needed to send the boat to Gaza.

This article originally appeared in Volume 31, Issue 15, published November 23, 2010.