How George Galloway was barred from Canada in less than 2 hours – The British MP went from controversial to ‘inadmissible’ in just 102 minutes, and evidence suggests politics likely had a hand in slashing the red tape
Ottawa — It took less than two hours for Canadian Border Services Agency officials to declare controversial British MP George Galloway inadmissible to Canada. There was little doubt that’s what Immigration Minister Jason Kenney wanted.
Though last year’s decision to bar Mr. Galloway from Canada for allegedly supporting banned Mideast group Hamas fuelled headlines for weeks and a court case that will be heard on Monday, it was a decision that was pushed through the bureaucracy at record speed.
From the first e-mail that Mr. Kenney’s communications director, Alykhan Velshi, sent on March 16, 2009, at 2:09 p.m. to immigration bureaucrats – the subject line was “inadmissible” – only 102 minutes passed before an official in the National Security section of the CBSA had agreed that Mr. Galloway should be barred for being a member of a terrorist organization.
Monday’s arguments in a legal case contesting the government move will raise a host of crucial questions for Canada’s immigration system. Mr. Galloway insists he was never a member of Hamas, and he’s being barred for his political and pro-Palestinian views.
But the court record has already revealed much about how the Galloway affair began: not in routine work by security officials, but because it was triggered by political aides, then pushed quickly by high-ranking officials, and approved by the Prime Minister’s Office.
A year ago, Mr. Kenney insisted it was a CBSA decision, and portrayed it as one that came up through the channels of bureaucrats. That’s not what an immigration officer in London told Mr. Galloway’s assistant, Kevin Ovenden, according to records the government filed with the court this week.
“I stated that Mr. Galloway has been deemed inadmissible by Canada’s immigration minister, Jason Kenney, and that he [Mr. Galloway] would be denied entry at a Canadian port of entry,” Robert Orr, the Immigration official in London, wrote in an e-mail to Canada’s High Commissioner to Britain, James Wright.
It was Mr. Kenney’s communications’ aide, Mr. Velshi, who set the wheels in motion a few days before, on March 16.
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