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Harper's attack on democracy and the Arab and Muslim community

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Message Edward C. Corrigan

The Canadian federal government's attempt to censor or to marginalize pro-Palestinian individuals and organizations is a serious problem facing Canada's Arab and Muslim communities. This campaign even threatens our democratic traditions and the independence of many institutions.

An example of censorship is the Harper government's decision to ban British Member of Parliament George Galloway from entering the country.

He gave money and food to Hamas, the duly elected governing authority in Palestine, and because of this humanitarian act he was denied the right to express his opinions on the Middle East. Having a British MP publicly oppose the Israeli siege of Gaza, the occupation of Iraq, and the war in Afghanistan would have been inconvenient to Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Citizenship Minister Jason Kenney, both strong proponents of Israel and supporters of George W. Bush's "war on terror."

The question becomes: Will the present Conservative government also ban Andrew Phillips (Lord Sudbury), a Liberal Democrat in the British House of Lords?

Will it ban other British MPs who have called for an end to the collective punishment being imposed on Gaza?

On Jan. 21, 2010, 12 Members of the European Parliament took part in the most representative parliamentary delegation ever to visit Gaza.

The delegation also contained members of regional and national parliaments from these countries--in total, nearly 60 parliamentarians. They entered Gaza from Egypt through the Rafah Crossing on a fact-finding mission to gather information about the humanitarian situation in Gaza, which has been under siege since Hamas won the 2006 election.

The mission was organized by the European Campaign to End the Siege on Gaza (ECESG), the umbrella body of 30 NGOs across Europe. It was led by Jewish MP Sir Gerald Kaufman.

Will the Harper Government to ban Kaufman and these 60 MPs because they entered Gaza and met with local elected Palestinian officials?

Numerous other politicians--including Vice President of the European Parliament Luisa Morgantini, Bishop Desmond Tutu and former U.S. President Jimmy Carter have also called for an end to the siege of Gaza.

Would they be allowed in? Would Nelson Mandela be banned if he sent food to the 1.5 million Palestinians in Gaza who are being slowly starved to death?

Unfortunately, the Galloway incident seems to be part of a pattern of deliberate harassment. Here in Canada, the Harper government, through Kenney, abruptly canceled English-language training funding to the Canadian Arab Federation because its leaders criticized Kenney's public support for Israel's attack on Gaza.

What did Kenney expect from a national organization that represents Canada's Arab community--a ringing endorsement of his support for the Israeli attack on the Arabs in Gaza?! The matter is now the subject of a legal action at the Federal Court of Canada, where leave was granted to pursue the claim against Kenney.

The government also canceled funding to Kairos, an internationally known Christian human rights organization, which is officially supported by the seven largest Christian denominations in Canada.

Kairos' human rights work includes projects in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Middle East. While addressing the Global Forum to Counter Anti-Semitism in Jerusalem, Kenney cited the defunding of Kairos as an example of his government's fight against anti-Semitism.

After 35 years of Canadian government support, this Christian human rights organization is suddenly labeled "anti-Semitic" and stripped of its ability to fund its international commitments. This was a politically motivated attack because of Kairos support for Palestinians and other marginalized groups.

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EDWARD C. CORRIGAN SHORT BIO Edward C. Corrigan holds a B.A. in History and a MasterĂ ‚¬ „ s Degree in Political Science from the University of Western Ontario. Ed also has a Law Degree from the University of Windsor and was called to the Bar of (more...)
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