Denied Entry to Canada Case Raises Free Speech Issues
UK MP Denied entry to Canada
As reported in the National Post, UK MP George Galloway allegedly provided humanitarian food aid in the Gaza region earlier in the year. The Immigration Section of the Canadian High Commission in London therefore denied him entry to Canada on grounds that he is a member of the terrorist organization Hamas pursuant to the inadmissibility provisions of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act. Mr. Galloway wishes to enter Canada to speak at a four day peace rally in Toronto and other parts of Canada. His case has been appealed to the Federal Court where a decision on his right to enter Canada will be made later today.
This case raises some interesting issues about Canadian immigration laws relating to inadmissibility and freedom of speech. As discussed in previous blogs and on our website , Canadian immigration regulations prohibit admission to Canada based on serious criminality, terrorism and being member of terrorist organizations.
The interesting question here is what constitutes membership in a terrorist organization? Is providing aid to people who live in a region where terrorists may reside evidence that one belongs to a terrorist organization? The federal court judge in this case sites lack of direct evidence pointing even to the MPs involvement in giving aid in the first place.
But even if it is confirmed that Mr. Galloway did in fact bring aid to Gaza and was even a Hamas sympathizer, I do not think such facts should render him inadmissible to Canada. Unless it can be shown that he funded or actively supported or worked with Hamas or any other terrorist organization, Mr Galloway’s personal beliefs and political leanings should not be a factor in assessing whether he is to be admitted to Canada or not. After all, we live in a democracy and an essential keystone of a democratic society is freedom of speech (within certain limitations). Ironically, being persecuted in a foreign country for one’s political opinion is a legal ground for making a refugee claim in Canada.
Mr. Galloway’s alleged actions in Gaza and even possible sympathies to Hamas raises certain moral concerns about his character, but unless he is found to be a criminal, terrorist or a member of a terrorist organization, his legal ability to enter Canada for the purpose of participating in public speaking engagements should not be thwarted by the Canadian authorities. Allowing morally undesirables into Canada who are otherwise not breaking any laws or engaging in terrorist activities, is a testament to our democracy. The alternative (denying him entry to Canada) would be to support censorship–a policy widely enforced throughout terrorist regimes. A hard pill to swallow maybe but a price well worth it if we are to keep our democracies functioning.
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