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

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

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.