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So much for free speech

Whew! Let’s breathe a sigh of relief now that British MP George Galloway has been barred from entering our country.

Whew! Let’s breathe a sigh of relief now that British MP George Galloway has been barred from entering our country. Our children are safe. No telling what damage could have been rendered by this heinous threat to our national security.

If reports are correct, Canada is the only country in the world that bars the sitting MP, who has been elected five times to the British parliament and has no criminal record. The Americans let him in. Even Israel, despite his pro-Hamas views, let him in.

So what is the Harper government trying to do here? Ramp up its right-wing credentials to the point where Canada is seen as a denier of freedom of speech?

Some of Galloway’s views are wacko. We can disagree readily with his take on Israel, with his support for Hamas, but does that mean you gag him? Others, Canadians and Americans, have supplied aid to Hamas and controlled Gaza. Will that get them the same kind of treatment? As someone said of Galloway, the best way to expose the folly of his arguments is to allow him to come here and spout them.

The Galloway ban follows one taken against an American citizen. William Ayers, the old friend of Barack Obama who was a figure of controversy in the U.S. presidential election, was an advocate of radical violence four decades ago. He has since become a distinguished professor of education who serves on dissertation committees at the University of Ottawa and Toronto. He has been allowed into Canada many times. He arrived to give a speech at the U of T in January, only to be told by immigration officials that he had a 40-year-old felony conviction, which he denies. When Ayers asked them if they really thought he was a security threat, he said they laughed, before saying it wasn’t their decision.

The bans are in keeping with other hardline measures by the Harperites recently. The government, which takes a leisurely attitude toward Guantanamo, is going ahead with the deportation of conscientious objectors to the war in Iraq — even though the prime minister disavowed his support for that war in last fall’s election campaign.

The government last week announced it was not renewing $2.5 million in contracts for the Canadian Arab Federation to teach English to new immigrants.

On Iran, it has escalated the rhetoric against the government there — this while Obama moves to moral high ground with a diplomatic overture to Tehran to narrow the differences.

All quite strange. Rather than calm tensions, Ottawa’s intent seems to be to inflame them.

– Lawrence Martin is a Globe and Mail correspondent and author who writes about national affairs from Ottawa.

 
 
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