Why does ITQ have the sinking feeling that this press conference is just going to leave us with more unanswered, possibly unanswerable questions and even more confused about what’s actually going on?
On Wednesday, March 25th, 2009, spokespersons for the Canada and Québec George Galloway speaking tour will be joined by Canadian MPs and a legal expert to address the media. At the conference they will unveil a challenge to the decision made by Conservative Immigration Minister Jason Kenney, which bans the British Parliamentarian from speaking to the Canadian public. MPs include Serge Ménard, Bloc Québécois critic for Public Safety, and Olivia Chow, New Democratic Party critic for Citizenship and Immigration.
Greetings from the front steps of Parliament, where ITQ has already staked out a prime piece of cement in front of the lone mic stand, which is currently unoccupied. There are various organizers bustling around – this is, after all, a somewhat last-minute media event, and there was some confusion surrounding the exact timing of today’s press conference. We’re outside, which is – well, bracing, although it’s not quite as chilly as yesterday. Given past experience, though, I suspect there will be grumbling if it goes much beyond 10:45,
Okay, I think this is about to get underway — the MPs are here: Olivia Chow and Serge Menard, from the NDP and the Bloc Quebecois respectively. Gosh, I wonder when the Liberal representative will arrive. I’m sure he or she is just running a few minutes late.
One of the Peace Alliance organizers gets things started, introducing himself as a labour organizer and activist. It’s actually quite an impressive lineup of speakers and/or props – nine total, which fans out nicely across the landing.
‘We will not cease and desist,” vows Aruso – the original organizer – after confirming that the decision – or whatever it is – will be challenged in court. This is about freedom of speech, y’all. Don’t tread on us – we’ll apply for judicial review until you beg for mercy.
James Clark, who is with the Toronto anti-war group that originally booked Galloway as a speaker, takes the mic. He recaps the story so far, noting that he’s been involved with previous Galloway-related speaking tours, which he took part in with no apparent difficulty at the border. In fact, just days ago, he crossed into the United States with no difficulty.
This is a politically motivated decision, Clark says. He points the finger directly at Jason Kenney — neither CBSA or Public Safety get so much as an aside — and notes that there is an ongoing “civil liberty” lobby campaign targetng the entire Conservative caucus.
Meanwhile, an application for judicial review has been filed and will be heard before Friday.
Oh, and according to Clark, Galloway learned about the decision “many hours” after it was reported in the press, and after Kenney’s spokesperson had been quoted widely on the subject. Say, that sounds like the makings of a fascinating timeline post.
He thanks Chow and Menard for showing up today, and gives the mic to Jamie Chu, an immigration lawyer involved in the challenge. Hurray! Answers!
Chu notes that there are three issues here: the letter from the Canadian High Commission, to which Galloway’s team has responded with a public letter “denouncing” the allegations against him. Second, the application for judicial review, and finally, an application for an emergency injunction, which will be heard today.
This is actually a pretty good background briefing on the legal issues. Wish my fingers weren’t about to freeze, or I’d capture more of it, but I suspect most of the same points will turn up in the application(s), which should be up on the website by 11am. The upshot – this is an unprecedented action by the government, and an attempt to surreptitiously – or actually the opposite of surreptitious, as it turns out – expand the definition of “supporting terrorism” as it appears in the IRPA.
Next up, Chow, who laments the whole ordeal as “depressing” and also accuses the government of attempting to block Galloway based on his political views. Unfortunately, she ends up competing with the Peace Tower bells – that’s something of which all advance teams should be mindful; the bells have an eerie tendency to go off right in the middle of what would otherwise be the best clip. Serge Menard, meanwhile, is the consummate professional, as always. I just wish he’d occasionally throw us anglophones the odd bon mot.
Hey, I think we’re starting to attract tourists – which isn’t a surprise, really, considering that this news conference is currently blocking the main entrance to Parliament, although not in a Kenneyian way. That, or CSIS has an exciting new pre-teen recruitment drive.
And – questions. First up, Global TV, which wants to know whether this “humanitarian aid” convoy really could present an impassable barrier to entry, according to the letter of the law. Chu pipes up to reiterate that, if true, this would end up catching many international charities and aid groups in the same net, and Olivia Chow wonders how bringing clothes and food to Gaza children could be seen as support for terrorism.
But what about financial support, the reporter wonders. Galloway has admitted giving money to the government, which Chu confirms, and another organizer points out that “the majority” of aid was in the form of material goods, but some money was given to the government as government, and not as Hamas. “Canada is the only government in the world recognizing this as a terrorist act,” he notes. Even the US doesn’t see it that way.
So, where are the Liberals, Global – yes, still – asks. And why haven’t any of the opposition parties brought this up in QP? Clark tries to dodge the specifics, noting that it’s “not relevant” to the issue, but that doesn’t fool the crowd for a second.
“Did you invite the Liberals?” Wonders the Globe’s Campbell Clark. Clark – the Toronto anti-war Clark, that is – acknowledges that “some invitations” were sent to Liberal MPs, but stresses that this has been a “very busy time” for the organizers. They’ve been flooded with support, including from MPs from all parties – yes, even Conservatives, he notes – who are concerned over Kenney’s apparent involvement.
With that, Aruso informs the throng that the half hour scheduled for the press conference, has wrapped up – not a moment too soon, as far as ITQ’s fingers are concerned, but perhaps just a few minutes longer than necessary if you’re a Liberal.
I’ll post a link to the legal documents when I get a chance – but for now, that’s all for the Peace Tower peaceniks, so, uh – peace out?