George Galloway, the pro-terrorist MP from the United Kingdom, has been denied entry to Canada on security grounds. I suspect it has to do with his track record of providing financial assistance to terrorist groups like Hamas, which is listed as a criminal organization in Canada. It would not surprise me if CSIS determined that Galloway's visit would have had fundraising or recruiting spin-offs for Hamas or other terrorist groups. I'm sure Galloway himself would boast of those activities. (UPDATE: I am advised that, in fact, his planned speaking engagement at a Toronto church was to raise funds for Hamas.)
The cabinet minister in charge of immigration, Jason Kenney, could exercise his ministerial discretion and override his officials, but given Kenney's zero-tolerance policy towards anti-Semitism, that's a non-starter.
This case is an interesting intersection between free speech and national sovereignty and security.
Galloway is not a Canadian citizen; he does not have a right to come to Canada (nor any other rights guaranteed to our citizens). He would be a guest, and he is being turned away for security reasons.
Were he a citizen, he would have the right to spout his bigotry in Canada (but not to engage in material support for terrorists, which is a crime.) If he were a citizen, he would be allowed back home, and arrested for his crimes.
I don't see this as a free speech issue; I see it as a sovereignty issue -- keeping out an undesirable foreigner who has no right to be here, and who boasts about violating our criminal code.
I note that today's National Post carries an Op-Ed by one Bernie "Burny" Farber calling for Galloway to be barred from the country. (Little did the Post know that the decision had already been made.) It catalogues Galloway's misbehaviour, but then Burny makes a surprising statement, for him:
George Galloway has every right to speak here in Canada, no matter how offensive most Canadians would find his views and actions. But he does not have the right to raise funds for terrorist causes while on our shores. He does not have the right to promote terrorism or incite hatred.
Did Burny just say that someone -- in this case, a foreigner with no rights as a Canadian -- has a "right to speak", "no matter how offensive" he is?
Two sentences later, Burny throws in some weasel words -- that Galloway shouldn't be able to "promote terrorism or incite hatred", as if blowing someone up is in the same league as causing people to have hard feelings.
But is this a glimmer of hope that perhaps Burny is giving up his book-burning fetish?
If he believes foreigners like Galloway have the "right" to speak offensively in Canada, maybe he'll one day grant that same right to actual Canadian citizens, and abandon his support for our perverse human rights commissions and their censorship engines.
Who knows? If this keeps up, I might just have to start spelling Burny's name Bernie again!
P.S. Here is how I will always remember George Galloway: from his memorable appearance on TV's "Big Brother", a reality show with curious staying power in the U.K. It's hilarious and a little creepy. (YouTube won't permit me to embed this video). I wonder if he would have done such a crowd-pleaser in his Toronto gig. We'll never know.
UPDATE: Good friends, and friends of freedom of speech say I'm not being consistent -- that I should be for Galloway's right to be wrong. I am; I don't think he should be arrested for being a racist, terrorist-loving buffoon. I think he should be arrested for raising money for a criminal terrorist organization. That's not speech I'm against, that's fundraising for terrorism I'm against. But that's not my main point: my main point is that Galloway has no "right" to come to Canada. He's not Canadian.
I'm all for his free speech -- elsewhere.
It's sort of like my position with the Canadian Islamic Congress and their nuisance complaints against Maclean's magazine. They demanded five or six pages of Maclean's magazine in which to write their pro-Islamist propaganda. They have the right to express that propaganda all they like -- but not in Maclean's magazine. It's not a matter of free speech, it's a matter of property rights -- they don't own Maclean's, and don't have a right of access to it.
I just don't think that Canada needs to be open to any dime-store bigot from around the world. It really is an immigration matter.
To expand on that point, we ought to screen immigrants for their basic values -- that they reject violence; that they embrace a secular government and not a theocracy; that they accept basic democratic and equality norms, including the equality of men and women. I think that we have every right to keep out bigots who fail to meet that basic test.
I would never tolerate such a political test for Canadians. But for foreigners who wish to be our guests? Absolutely. It's called national sovereignty.
UPDATE 2: Stephen Taylor has some additional video clips of Galloway. I'm not sure why it's our legal duty to import such a man if it's our good luck that he isn't a Canadian already.