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Zimmerman: Kenney’s List

July 14, 2011

Jason Kenney, minister of Citizenship, Immigration, and Multiculturalism, has been under a great deal of critical fire lately. He has been confronted by activists at various public engagements, for what many see as his draconian immigration reforms, and has even been blatantly accused of racism on a number of occasions. To add to this, since the embarrassing fiasco with his attempted national banning of former British MP George Galloway, critics have given him an unflattering title: Jason Kenney, minister of Censorship and Deportation.

The Calgary-based Member of Parliament has been a rising star among the Conservatives since Stephen Harper’s government took power in 2006. There have even been rumours of him succeeding Stephen Harper as party’s leader and possibly as Prime Minister of Canada. The criticism being leveled at him, although largely ignored by his right-wing base, may have some detriment on his possible leadership aspirations.

The critics have been harsh, but no one has acted as much as a catalyst for these criticisms than George Galloway. The banning of George Galloway, according to Kenney, was due to Galloway’s apparent support of the Hamas government in Gaza, Palestine. Galloway has spoken out against these accusations, explaining that ideologically and politically he has never been a supporter of Hamas, but only supported the Palestinian people in Gaza by bringing them aid. The governing body in Gaza is, for good or for bad, Hamas, and thus Galloway reasons that in order to materially support the people of Gaza one has to go through the necessary avenues and networks to do so. There are, for instance, charities that give aid to children in North Korea. Would Kenney argue that these groups support Kim Jong Il?

Jason Kenney’s reason for objecting to George Galloway’s apparent support for Hamas is that Hamas is listed on the Canadian terrorist watchdog list, so perhaps for Kenney this is the solid criterion where one is considered a supporter of terrorism. Galloway and his legal team managed to overturn Kenney’s ban earlier this year through a federal judge, displaying in Galloway’s words: “that Canada remains a country governed by laws, not by ‘here today, gone tomorrow’ politicians and their whims.”

George Galloway, an outspoken anti-war activist, has just recently completed a cross-country speaking tour entitled Free Palestine, Free Afghanistan, Free Speech. He has called out Kenney for his actions and compared his ideologies to a dying remnant of the Bush era in North American politics. Kenney has also been challenged to an open debate of his choosing by Galloway, yet has failed to respond so far. Galloway stopped by his Calgary office, vowing to find him in Ottawa once it was obvious that Kenney would not be present to speak with him in his constituency office.

It is estimated that around 8,000-9,000 people in Canada have heard Galloway speak live at these functions, and it is likely that many more have heard him on the recordings of his speeches now. Kenney’s banning is seen largely as a backfiring move and has opened his office up for further criticism.

Something quite bizarre has come to the fore since George Galloway’s speaking tour. Galloway mentioned that Jason Kenney has openly supported an organization that is dubbed a terrorist organization by Canada’s own terrorist watchdog list; the People’s Mujahadin of Iran or Mujahedin e Khalq (MEK). He had attended a rally in support of the People’s Mujahadin despite their designation as a terrorist organization by his own government. It seems odd then that Kenney could condemn Galloway for his apparent support for Hamas since its name is on the terrorist list, but at the same time is openly supportive of another group on that same list. It leads one to question how much Kenney really values this list. From the way he carries on about Galloway and Hamas, which he has recently started referring as “an anti-Semitic death cult,” and constantly brings up mention of Hamas’s designation on the terrorist list, one would assume that he holds this list in high regard, but his actions in regards to the MEK show otherwise.

One might assume that Kenney’s invocations of this list are more politically motivated than principled. The word ‘terrorist’ gets thrown around a lot, particularly in the past decade in Canadian society. The MEK originated in Iran and its stated objective is to overthrow the Islamic regime. Throughout the past few decades they have been based in neighbouring Iraq where they were funded almost completely by Saddam Hussein’s government and were pivotal allies in the nearly decade long Iran-Iraq War. Some observers and governments have accused them of helping Saddam’s regime put down Kurdish and Shia rebellions after the war. Whether or not the MEK should be considered a terrorist organization is up for debate, as is the designation of Hamas, but Kenney’s stance is puzzling. He condemns one, yet supports the other.

People's Mujahadeen-e-khalq - Whether one considers them heroes or villains, they are designated as a terrorist organization by the US, Canada, Iran, and Iraq

If Galloway was banned from the country for giving financial aid to a government that is run by a Canadian-designated terrorist organizations, can the argument be made that Kenney should go into exile for openly endorsing the actions and ideologies of another? It’s hard to say, as a federal court judge did find Galloway not guilty of any wrong-doing. How much credibility and legitimacy does Jason Kenney have at this point?

(originally published in the YU Free Press : http://www.yufreepress.org/?p=1726 )

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