Courtesy Thomas Walkom, Toronto Star
Jason Kenney has gone over the edge. The increasingly erratic immigration minister made headlines last week when, in a fit of pique, he cut off funding to an Arab organization that helps newcomers learn English. Now, Kenney has banned British MP George Galloway from entering Canada, on the spurious grounds that he supports Middle East terrorism.
Itâ€™s a clumsy move, designed presumably to bolster the Conservative governmentâ€™s support among voters who ardently back Israel.
But in a roundabout way it does illustrate how absurdly broad Canadaâ€™s new anti-terror laws are and how dangerous they can be in the wrong hands.
Gallowayâ€™s apparent crime was to deliver humanitarian aid last week to Gazaâ€™s Hamas government, which Canada deems a terrorist organization. But the 54-year-old Scottish MPâ€™s real sin was that he couldnâ€™t resist rubbing it in. Others have taken aid into Hamas-controlled Gaza, including a delegation of Canadians and Americans who crossed into the Palestinian territory on March 8.
As well, other Western politicians talk to Hamas. Last weekend, another British MP met the organizationâ€™s top leader.
But the nattily dressed Galloway, known at home as Gorgeous George, is a relentless showboat, famous in his own country for appearing in a reality television show.
He praises Hamas extravagantly, calling on the West to recognize it as the legitimately elected government of Gaza. He castigates countries like Canada that are trying to isolate Hamas as the real criminals of the piece.
Expelled from the ruling Labour Party in 2003 for opposing the invasion of Iraq, he now sits in Britainâ€™s parliament as the sole member of Respect, an anti-war grouping.
When Londonâ€™s Daily Telegraph accused him of taking rake-offs from Saddam Hussein, Galloway famously sued and won.
In short, heâ€™s egotistical, opinionated and â€“ on the question of whether the West should deal with Hamas â€“ probably correct.
But heâ€™s not by any stretch of the imagination a danger to this country. Even Kenney must recognize that.
Yet in terms of Canadaâ€™s ludicrously broad immigration and anti-terror laws â€“ which deem criminal anyone who advocates any kind of relationship with a proscribed organizati on â€“ heâ€™s apparently inadmissible.
Even Canadian Jewish Congress head Bernie Farber, who staunchly opposes Gallowayâ€™s views, argued in a newspaper piece published yesterday that the MP does have the right to speak here â€“ although not to promote or raise money for Hamas.
(When I reached Farber yesterday afternoon, he said he now fully supports Kenneyâ€™s decision to bar Galloway and believes the law was applied correctly.)
Sadly, the Galloway incident is part of a pattern. Earlier this week, Kenney said he would not renew $2.5 million worth of contracts that the Canadian Arab Federation uses to teach English to new immigrants.
Ostensibly he was punishing federation head Khaled Mouammar for calling on Canada to treat Hamas and another proscribed body, the Lebanese militia Hezbollah, as â€œlegitimate organizations.â€
In fact, Mouammar is articulating a fairly common opinion among practitioners of realpolitik. Even the British government is reopening talks with Hezbollah, an organization it and Canada regard as terrorist.
The real reason for Kenneyâ€™s snit may be that in January Mouammar called him a â€œprofessional whore,â€ who supports Israel abroad to win Jewish votes at home.
Professional fool might be more apt. And a dangerous one. Itâ€™s not unusual for politicians to pander for votes. But a government that limits freedom of speech on grounds as flimsy as those cited by Kenney is unconscionable.