George Galloway - Security or Free Speech?
“This is not charity. This is politics”
George Galloway is appealing his ban on entry to Canada, imposed by the Government of Canada in March 2009, ahead of a proposed speaking tour. The proceedings have been temporarily delayed as his lawyer suffered a minor spill. However, the case will draw interest for a number of reasons related to freedom of expression, especially given that Mr. Galloway is a sitting Member of Parliament in the United Kingdom. The appeal by Mr Galloway is not without irony. When the radical Dutch MP Geert Wilders wanted to enter the United Kingdom to give a speech there, Mr Galloway was one of those who supported a ban on Mr Wilders travelling to the United Kingdom.
Behind the mixed claims about freedom of expression, however, lie a series of other problems, many of them directly related to security issues. Mr Galloway has been involved in activities where he has given money to HAMAS. This organization and its affiliated groups have been proscribed as terrorist groups by several countries, including the EU, Canada and America. Mr Galloway has stated that the money has only gone to the HAMAS’s Ministry of Health to help pay salaries for doctors and nurses.
However, Mr Gallowayâs case is complicated by his own statements, some of which demonstrate a conflict of interest in using money intended for a charity which is going to political purposes instead. Mr Galloway was asking for donations to support his trip to Gaza and the financial donations he was making there. The potential donations were to go to âViva Palestina.â The problem is that Viva Palestina is not a registered charity and it has a solely political objective. A member of Viva Palestina, attorney Lamis Deek from New York, has noted this. It was suggested instead that monies intended for Viva Palestina could be sent to the Interreligious Foundation for Community Organizations/Pastors for Peace, which is a registered charity. Such donations do get a tax receipt, which means that the taxpayers of America were indirectly funding Mr Gallowayâs activities.
Mr Galloway was counselling potential donors to send money to Pastors for Peace which would then be forwarded to him. He stated that: âYou can do it online, we will not be crossing into Gaza until the 13th. Any penny you can send between now and then, which incidentally is not coming to us but to the respected Christian organization, Pastors for Peace, who are our sponsors, no breaking of the law here, all US laws have been observed here, and complied with here.â
The obvious issue here is that Mr Galloway is stating that he is being sponsored by Pastors for Peace, (a registered charity) and that the money will be used for political purposes. It is not altogether clear that this is in fact legal. Soliciting funds for one charity to be resent to another organization is grounds for that charity to lose its tax exempt status. And, as Mr Galloway himself noted about the event as he gave the money to HAMAS, âHere is the money. This is not charity. This is politics.â
The major issue that needs to be examined here is as follows:
Mr Galloway appears to be soliciting money to be sent to a registered charity (that issues tax receipts) which will in turn be sent to him for political purposes. This would, on the surface, appear to be a means of deliberately circumventing the rules put in place to stop charities being used to fund politics. It is using the tax exempt status of a charity to support the activities of another organization.
Mr Gallowayâs case also casts light on an issue that is problematic in Canada. Are various groups, which are funded either directly or indirectly by the Canadian taxpayer, having their monies sent overseas to organizations that misrepresent themselves as human rights organizations or charities when they are in fact political organizations? Are Canadian taxpayers aware that some of these organizations are dangerously close to violent organizations that advocate political violence as a means of political problem solving?
One of the inadvertent side effects of Mr Gallowayâs case is that is activities in the Palestinian Territories, America and the United Kingdom may draw significant attention to similar activities in Canada.
The opinions expressed in this blog are personal and do not reflect the views of either Global Brief or the Glendon School of Public and International Affairs.