British MP George Galloway Starts Libel Suit Against Canadian Immigration Minister

British MP George Galloway starts libel suit against Cdn immigration minister

The Canadian Press
May 1, 2009

TORONTO British antiwar MP George Galloway, who was denied entry into Canada in March, announced Friday he plans to sue Immigration Minister Jason Kenney over suggestions he supports terrorism.

The defamation notice, the first step in commencing a defamation action, was also served on senior members of two Jewish organizations as well as a top Kenney aide.

Galloway alleges the respondents made more than a dozen statements that were widely published in Canada and abroad but were false and damaged his reputation.

“I welcome robust criticism, but the comments made about me crossed the line,” Galloway said in a statement.

“They are not only untrue, they are outrageous. As an elected member of the British Parliament, I am compelled to exercise my legal right to clear my name.”

In March, Kenney refused to intervene in a decision by the Canada Border Services Agency to ban the 54-year-old Scottish MP on national security grounds from entering Canada for a series of speaking engagements.

“I believe folks that are supporting and promoting and helping terrorist organizations are not needed to visit Canada,” Kenney said at the time.

The minister's office said then that Galloway had expressed sympathy for the Taliban cause in Afghanistan and provided financial support to the Palestinian group Hamas, listed in Canada as a terrorist organization.

Kenney's spokesman Alykhan Velshi, who was also served with the notice, said Friday it would be inappropriate to comment on a matter before the courts.

“However, let me say that Mr. Galloway's conduct speaks for itself,” Velshi said. “Truth is a complete defence to libel.”

Galloway has voiced support for the Palestinian cause. He gave $45,000 to the head of the elected Hamas government in Gaza for what he called humanitarian assistance.

“It is pretty obvious he has to sue,” Galloway's spokesman Ron McKay said in an interview from London.

“He's been accused of being a financier of international terrorism – you could hardly get a more defamatory or grievous allegation than that.”

McKay was adamant there was not a “scintilla of evidence” to support such suggestions, and those who made the statements must apologize “or it will go the full way.”

The seven-page notice obtained by The Canadian Press said the various statements painted Galloway as, among other things, “an international financier of illegal terrorist organizations” and someone who “financially supports suicide bombers.”

A source who asked not to be named said Galloway considered statements from Canadian Jewish Congress CEO Bernie Farber to be the most egregious because they were “so outrageous and so extreme.”

Among other things, Farber had said Galloway did not have the right “to raise funds for terrorist causes” in Canada.

“There is nothing that I can think of that any member of Canadian Jewish Congress has said about Mr. Galloway that would warrant any libel action,” Farber said Friday.

The notice gave the respondents three days to apologize or retract their statements, or Galloway will issue a statement of claim next month, said Toronto lawyer Nicole Chrolavicius, who is acting for the politician.

The notice also names Jewish congress co-president Sylvain Abitbol and Frank Dimant of B'Nai Brith Canada, who said in March that “individuals who glorify terrorism” deserve to be denied entry to Canada.

B'Nai Brith legal director Anita Bromberg said Friday she was reviewing the notice but said Dimant made his comments “in the public interest.”

The fiery Galloway delivered his speeches to audiences in Canada via a video link from New York after a failed attempt to get the courts to force Ottawa to allow him into the country.