A capacity crowd of over 1000 people filled St. Andrew's-Wesley church last night as former British M.P George Galloway
berated the Canadian government for barring his entry into Canada and for Canadian policies in the Middle East. A half a dozen protesters opposing his views stood outside in the cold.
The widely advertised speech organized by local antiwar activists in the StopWar organization had seen various local endorsers drop out at the last moment citing concerns about Galloway's "controversial" nature. Included were members of the provincial NDP and the Suzuki Foundation. Galloway addressed this accusation head on, claiming that what might be considered controversial about his views in Canada concerning the Israel-Palestine conflict or the war in Afghanistan were views held by many around the world.
Galloway, who was kicked out of Tony Blair's ruling Labour Party caucus
over his opposition to the invasion of Iraq, was barred from Canada
over a year ago by Citizenship, Immigration, and Multiculturalism Minister Jason Kenney. Galloway subsequently had Kenney's decision overturned
in the Canadian courts and is now taking further legal action against Kenney for defamation. In the initial decision Kenney's office had described Galloway as a supporter of Hamas. Hamas, the elected government of Gaza, has been declared a terrorist organization by the Canadian government.
Galloway noted that when he was banned from entering Canada he had been on a speaking tour across the United States. Calling his exclusion undemocratic and an affront to the freedom of speech of Canadians, Galloway firmly denied the charge that he is in league with Hamas, claiming instead that he supports the people of Palestine to choose their own government. Hamas was elected in Gaza in what former U.S President Jimmy Carter called a "pristine" election. "I'm not a supporter of Hamas, I'm a supporter of democracy." Galloway noted that it was high time for Canadians "to learn to shake themselves out of the belief that we have the right to tell other people how to live." Galloway also firmly denied that he has any anti-Semitic leanings, noting in his talk that he had actively worked with Jews and Jewish organiztions over the years on a variety of projects.
Galloway linked Canada's mission in Afganistan to the failure of American policies in the Middle East generally. Calling the mission doomed, and a waste of the lives of Canadian soldiers and Afghan civilians, Galloway described it as being like the "Alamo, the last bastion of George Bush's neocon madness." Galloway stated that "there is no future for us in that", noting that the U.S invasion of Iraq and the ongoing NATO involvment in Afghanistan were the best possible recruiting tools for Muslim extremists.
Galloway spoke for over an hour without notes and was frequently interrupted by applause from an enthusiastic audience. He ended with a quote from Che Guevara and asked the audience to "be troubled and [show] indignation against the crimes being commited against the people of Palestine."