Former British MP and controversial political activist George Galloway will be speaking at the University of Calgary on Nov. 23 for his "Free Palestine, Free Afghanistan, Free Speech" tour.
In March 2009, Galloway and the Viva Palestina aid convoy delivered approximately $2 million worth of humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip following the 2008-2009 Israel-Gaza conflict. Because the aid was delivered through Hamas, the democratically elected ruling party in Gaza, the Canadian government sought to prevent Galloway from entering Canada afterwards. Canada recognizes Hamas as a terrorist organization.
"Jason Kenney, the Minister for Citizenship and Immigration, decided that Galloway was a threat to national security by way of allegedly supporting a terrorist organization and banned him from entering the country," said Jaya Taqat, a U of C student organizing the event.
Kenney's decision was later overruled by the Federal Court of Canada.
"It is clear that the efforts to keep Mr. Galloway out of the country had more to do with antipathy to his political views than with any real concern that he had engaged in terrorism or was a member of a terrorist organization," said Judge Richard Mosley.
"One of the purposes of his trip to Calgary, Kenney's riding, was to discuss what constitutes free speech in Canada and why talking about human rights violations in other parts of the world can be deemed inappropriate by the government," said Taqat.
Galloway challenged Kenney to a public debate after stating the Canadian had not accounted for his role in keeping him out of the country. As of press time, there has been no response from Kenney.
Galloway will also try to raise awareness of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict through the event.
"His main goal in Palestine is to end the occupation of Gaza and the West Bank" said Taqat. "He will also be tackling the issue of the difficulty of criticizing the state of Israel, as this is often equated with anti-Semitism."
Galloway will argue for the removal of NATO troops from Afghanistan as well.
Student opinion on this issue is mixed.
"I think it's good that someone is coming to increase our awareness to different issues," said Warren Greaves, a second-year economics student.
This belief does not hold across the board.
"Even though he may have some good ideas, he went too far providing aid to Hamas," said first-year biological science student Amy Brett.