Q&A: Jason Kenney on George Galloway and free speech

‘The prime minister presses ministers, not the other way around’


Jason Kenney Q: Why is a self-described free speech hawk banning George Galloway from Canada?
A: He’s not. I reject the premise of your question. Mr. Galloway received a preliminary notice of determination by the Canadian Border Services Agency that he might be inadmissible to Canada, I gather based in large part on his public admission that he provided funds to Hamas, a banned illegal terrorist organization, which would seem–on the face of it–to constitute grounds for inadmissibility under Section 34(1)f of the Immigration Refugee Protection Act. He was invited to provide submissions to the CBSA to inform their consideration of his potential application to enter Canada. He never provided them with any such submissions and he never presented himself to a point of entry where he would have had, at that point, a final decision on his admissibility, and had he been determined to be inadmissible by an officer at a port of entry he would have been able to apply for an inadmissibility hearing. So there’s a whole process that we have under our law to make determinations independently of politicians about admissibility. I simply said publicly that I would not use my extraordinary ministerial power to effectively overrule a decision of a CBSA officer on his admissibility. Why? Because I didn’t see any compelling reason. And by the way, this had nothing to do with freedom of speech, he exercised his speech in Canada, volubly, as he does everywhere. That was never the issue. The issue was not about what he might do or say in Canada, it’s what he did in making financial contributions to an organization that uses money to buy explosives and strap them to teenagers and send them into school buses and discos.

Q: Do you agree with the prime minister’s decision not to seek elimination of free speech prohibitions under the Human Rights Act?
A: Well, the prime minister is a well-known advocate of freedom of speech, he led by example as president of a national citizen’s coalition in that respect, and I have no reason to believe that’s changed. It’s a matter of record that our party convention adopted essentially unanimously a motion on this matter, and that the Canadian Human Rights Commission commissioned a report of their operations in this respect, which I believe actually recommended elimination of Section 13. My understanding is the prime minister has said the government doesn’t have any intention to act on that at this point, but obviously our government takes note of those facts.

Q: But when the party is 98 per cent in favour of it doesn’t the government feel an obligation to act? Don’t you?
A: My job is to act in my areas, like immigration and citizenship and multiculturalism.

Q: But you’re an influential party member, and you speak out on a variety of issues.
A: I was at the convention, I voted for the resolution–I think along with everyone in our caucus–and I understand the prime minister has said that at this time we don’t have any decision to make, any legislative changes. Obviously it’s a subject of ongoing interest and debate.

Q: So you’re going to press him, then, to change his mind on this?
A: The prime minister presses ministers, not the other way around.

Q: So you don’t plan to push the issue at all?
A: My views on this are on the public record.

Q: But you don’t plan to do anything about it.
A: I bought Ezra’s book.

Q: Well okay!
A (Kenney Aide): He got it for free.
A: No, I went and bought one too, just to support him!

For the full interview with Jason Kenney—on citizenship, terrorism and what we owe newcomers—buy the latest issue of Maclean’s, on newsstands now.


Q&A: Jason Kenney on George Galloway and free speech

  1. “The prime minister presses ministers, not the other way around.”


    • It’s very telling, isn’t it.

    • this is one of the problems with the current Tory government. The PM is only the ‘first among equals’, not an all knowing, overlord of the minions at his cabinet. While others from Trudeau through Martin have taken measures to increase the weight of their influence, none have held forth in the manner SH reportedly – and seemingly as acknowledged by Kenney – has.

  2. From a Machiavellian POV, it’s a mystery to me why the Tories are not acting on the CHRC & free speech. Sure, it’s a wedge issue, but a) that’s never, ever stopped them before and b) I’d have thought there’d be as many votes to gain as to lose on this. Perhaps I’ve been overexposed to Levantism, though (I have started wearing lip gloss), and the 905 and Lower Mainland in particular — the object of Kenney’s untiring efforts — would be lost to the Tories for good? Any theories?

    • They’ve been courting the “ethnic” (I hate that term!) vote quite actively – and with reasonable success – in recent years. Just a guess, but they may be nervous about perceptions on that front.

      • Not wanting to be criticized for taking their eye off the economy?

    • There are no votes to be gained in this. While people like me and you obsess over section 13 and etc. I have never, ever met anyone outside of the blogging nerdosphere that knows anything about it despite all the ink been spilled in its name. This is the kind of issue where, if people see an op-ed on the topic, they skip the op-ed.

      Plus: who composes the Speechy movement? Ezra, Nazis, professional scribblers, and M. Atwood. Throw in cannibals and rapists and you couldn’t have a more pathetic political coalition. Other than Ms. Atwood, the CPoC has been trying to ditch this gang since when they were the Reform Party.

      • So basically if any of the parties moves on it, the others will play it up to attack them? Esp., say, the NDP?

        • I don’t see anyone else moving on it, but yeah I think that would happen. The dynamics would be quite different from the blogosphere debate. Whisper “Neo Nazi” and people sit up immediately, and remember that Fromm and Lemire and some of the other of the players in this were all associated with various earlier versions of CPoC 10/15 years ago.

          Once bitten twice shy, for Harper.

          • We also remember all the smears and accusations of people like you just because an undesirable person showed up to a meet and greet or bought a party membership.

            We don’t much appreciate it, and it gets our dander up.

          • Thanks, Terry, for your cheerful, albeit self-centred, response to nothing in particular.

          • I’m sorry, but nothing pisses me off more than casual smears of guilt by association.

          • Therefore you go around saying things like “people like you”? Hmm, funny, that pisses other people off too. Do unto others, Terry. Do unto others.

          • Yes, bigcitylib belongs to the class of people that equate the supporters or leadership of the reform party with nazi sympathizers.

            I however, don’t belong to the class of being a nazi sympathizer nor did the leadership of the reform party.

          • His point was not that free-speechers (who include myself, btw) are Neo-Nazis but that it would be easy for Machiavellian opponents to tar any anti-Section 13 initiative with the fact that the Neo-Nazis happen to oppose it too (which is true).

            Which, if I may say, speaks to my own objection to Levant’s crusade, namely that he’s been conducting it under the banner of his idiosyncratic political philosophy instead of really reaching out. He hasn’t been able to resist using it as a personal and political banner. So (unfortunately IMHO) the movement is marginal.

          • His point was not that free-speechers (who include myself, btw) are nazis but that it would be easy for Machiavellian opponents to tar any anti-Section 13 initiative with the fact that the nazis happen to oppose it too (which is true).

            Which, if I may say, speaks to my own objection to Levant’s crusade, namely that he’s been conducting it under the banner of his idiosyncratic political philosophy instead of really reaching out. He hasn’t been able to resist using it as a personal and political banner. So (unfortunately IMHO) the movement is marginal.

          • My comments are getting eaten but I think BCL’s point was that action is impossible because the tent is not big enough; guilt by association would be the tactic used against it. Which seems like a fair Realpolitik assessment.

      • Bigcitylib, you’re always talking about the Nazis as if they’re some kind of force in Canada. They’re not. This country has 33 million people and all our serious “Nazis” could fit into a city bus or two.

        • And most of those are 40 year old virgins living in their mom’s basements!

      • Yeah, I don’t see making the country safer for hate speech a big vote getter, even though most of the advocates would promote it for ideological not sympathetic reasons.

    • I doubt Machiavellians would really believe in free speech. Or is that your point?

      The trouble with Levantism is that the man behind the philosophy has sued people who have spoken out against him, while at other times arguing for unadulterated free speech.

      A lot of the time, contentious issues tend to be avoided like the plague in Canadian politics, because they tend to be, well, the plague, on whomever touches them. Hence our lack of abortion laws to date, or the adverse reaction one receives if they ask about race or cite race-based statistics. Canadians by and large are hypersensitive to contentious issues, and tend to shy away from those who like to confront them. So theoretically, while there’s a net-zero effect on votes (in terms of people who agree with you less people who disagree with you), when voters are standing in the ballot box, it’s about who they’re most comfortable (or least uncomfortable) voting for: therefore making people uneasy by trying to address a difficult issue results in a net-loss overall. Does that make any sense?

  3. I’m still on “The prime minister presses ministers, not the other way around….”

    • I don’t see the problem with that – any leader in any organization does that. It is an essential part of being a leader – setting the agenda, and making sure that it happens.

  4. What if, anything, in this interview is something that we didn’t already know?

    Ah, journamalism.

    • It’s the BIG LIE in action.

      By stating over and over again “It’s not about free speech” he thinks that people will believe it.

      Kenney’s explanation is such a pile of bull plop. The newspapers knew of the decision before Galloway did and the letter delivered by the Canada High Commission to Galloway made it quite clear that he would be refused entry even if he did apply for a “Temporary Resident Permit” as suggested. The letter is on the internet BTW.

      The suggestion that Galloway was given opportunity to respond at the border for a final determination is such a load of lard.

      George Galloway had his freedom of speech infringed upon, as did all those Canadians who paid to hear him talk.

    • Mark, one participant at that event put the number at about 300 and, CR, Stormfront claims to have about 1,000 Canadian members. Furthermore, alot of the “research” behind Ezra’s book can be traced to accusations made earlier by Fromm, Lemire, et al. If you look at his statement of defense in his libel case, where he is defending material that appeared on his blog, this is even more obvious.

      • BCL, if we accept Stormfront’s claim, then one in 33,000 Canadians is a Nazi. Personally, I think they’re lying about the size of their membership and the actual ratio is more like one in 100,000 Canadians. In any case, the percentage of Canadians who identify with Nazi organizations is vanishingly small.

        To put this in perspective, the number of schizophrenics in Canada is 235,000. Schizophrenics outnumber Nazis by almost 1000:1, and doubtless there is some overlap between those two groups.

      • BCL your one participant is wrong. The venue is rated at 600, it was at capacity, your ongoing efforts to discredit the free speechers are laughable.

  5. I realize that on the one hand, we are arguing about someone who is a citizen of another country being denied admission and on the other, about people who are already residents/citizens of Canada, but:

    Is it not pretty rich for Kenney to be justifying the refusal of Galloway on the basis of support of a terrorist organization when hundreds of protesters were outside Parliament recently waving the flag of and supporting another so-called terrorist organization?

    We either have free speech or we do not. Once you place restrictions on free speech, it’s no longer entirely free. Discuss.

    • Check out the recent Potter column – posted somewhere on this site – that makes the same argument (and has oodles of comments),

      • Yeah, I saw that – and it’s sort of my point. Why wouldn’t Kenney (and his media training posse) try to address the (seeming) discrepancy in rules, and take the opportunity to rebut a fair point?

        • Galloway was denied entry to the country for reasons of funding Hamas. The protesters were not funding Tamils. Canadians were able to assemble and hear his ideas via video feed, so there was no censorship in that respect. The distinction is ideas versus funding, and the former are still allowed – even in support of banned organizations.

    • Here are my thoughts Lynn, a blog with sound bites. Some of the heads talk as you mover the mouse over the mouth. They mostly say stupid things.

      The blog title: This Is Not About Freedom Of Speech


  6. Linked to by Miss Marprelate.blogspot:
    “Maybe it’s just me, but if George Galloway had been admitted to Canada I think that that would be real grounds for discrimination and racism accusations. I mean, we don’t let Saudi Arabians with names like, say, Mohammed into Canada if they give money to terrorists, why do people think that we should let in Scots who do?”

    • True. Muslims have complained they have been singled out at the borders. This is proof they have not.

  7. With Jason Kenney’s chatter, we find a determination was made re- Galloway’s admissibility: Because he financially supported “a banned illegal terrorist organization”.

    Is there such a determination?

    If so, why so? Are our laws so convoluted we can’t think straight?

    What is a legal terrorist organization, other than the U.S.A.?

    • There is video footage and Galloway does not deny he did it.

  8. It’s a little annoying to see a politician like him in such a senior position say that he is supporting the issue by buying a book. Either he supports it or not, and if he does, he should do something substantial, because he does have the ability to do something substantial, to press the prime minister, and to make a stand.
    It’s great to buy the book, but he has all the opportunity in the world to do more, if he really does support the issue.

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