(photo credit: AP)
The Canadian government has denied controversial British MP George Galloway entry into Canada, saying that he supports Hamas terror and poses a threat to national security.
Galloway, a vocal critic of Canada's military involvement in Afghanistan, had been planning a speaking tour in Toronto beginning on March 30.
According to Alykhan Velshi, spokesman for Canadian Immigration Minister Jason Kenney, the British MP has been an unabashed supporter of Hamas - classified as a terrorist group in Canada - as well as of other terrorist groups.
"Mr. Galloway has never been a supporter of Hamas," responded Galloway's spokesman Kevin Ovenden. "He is a supporter of occupied people resisting occupation."
In an interview with The Jerusalem Post on Sunday, Ovenden said that "you [the Post] may not like it, but three years ago US president Jimmy Carter described the election of Hamas as one of the cleanest elections that he knew of. Hamas is a democratically elected, legitimate government."
Earlier this month, Galloway led a British humanitarian convoy through Gaza. During this tour, he commended the continued Palestinian resistance effort and condemned Israel's actions during Operation Cast Lead as "genocidal aggression."
"George Galloway publicly brags about his moral and, in some cases financial, support for internationally recognized terrorist organizations, including Hamas, Hizbullah and the Taliban. He proudly flaunts [sic] his own nation's laws and dares Western states to prosecute him for his support of terrorists. He is clearly a risk to Canadians," said Canadian Jewish Congress (CJC) Co-president Sylvain Abitbol over the weekend.
In 2003, Galloway was kicked out of the British Labor Party for calling on British soldiers not to fight in Iraq. Galloway founded his own Respect Party shortly thereafter and was reelected to the House of Commons in 2005.
"What we are not going to do is give special treatment to someone who has bragged about providing 'financial support' for Hamas... and who sympathized with the Taliban terrorists who are killing Canadians overseas," Velshi said over the weekend, justifying Kenney's decision to uphold Canada's Immigrant and Refugee Protection Act.
"We applaud the Canadian government for keeping George Galloway, a man who thrives on his support of terrorists, out of Canada," said Abitbol.
"The Government's decision to keep Galloway out of Canada demonstrates its resolve in the battle for pluralism and against terror and anti-Semitism," said CJC Co-president Rabbi Reuven Bulka. "We applaud the Government for its unambiguous efforts to safeguard Canada's values of tolerance."
Galloway has called the ban "absurd, hypocritical, and in vain," and is actively seeking a judicial review of the decision.
"We'll be challenging this in the courts in Canada, seeking a judicial review on the minister's decision, and as he has no basis for excluding me that would stand up to judicial scrutiny, I suspect they're now scrambling around ex post facto trying to put one together," he said.
"Canadian troops are in Afghanistan in the name of freedom and democracy, and this ban is a clearly illegal and anti-democratic act," said Ovenden.
Galloway has insinuated in his statements to the press that Kenney is a warmongering conservative out to silence his opposition and weaken free speech.
Galloway said that it was "a very sad day for the Canada we have known and loved - a bastion of the freedoms that supporters of the occupation of Afghanistan claim to be defending. This has further vindicated the anti-war movement's contention that unjust wars abroad will end up consuming the very liberties that make us who we are. This may be a rather desperate election ploy by a conservative government reaching the end of line, or by a minister who has not cottoned on to the fact that the George Bush era is over. All right-thinking Canadians, whether they agree with me over the wisdom of sending troops to Afghanistan or not, will oppose this outrageous decision."
Galloway vowed that he would not be silenced: "I'll come to the Canadian border and I will be heard in Canada one way or another. Whether it's by megaphone across the bridge or through the new technology that now exists. This here-today-gone-tomorrow minister will not stop me being heard by those who want to hear me in Canada."