University of Toronto professor Sherene Razack hosted a panel discussion last week at the Bahen Centre on the St. George campus to address the issues surrounding freedom of speech.
The Ontario Public Interest Research Group (OPIRG) organized the public forum as a result of the Canadian government’s decision to bar controversial British MP George Galloway from entering the country.
“There has been a massive attack on freedom of expression in Canada,” said Razack
Speakers from various activist groups were present to discuss the importance of this fundamental right along with recent government violations, such as threatening and targeting contentious groups.
Hadayt Nazami, represented George Galloway in the legal battle against the government that arose when he was denied entry to Canada.
“This has been the first time a government official has been barred from entering Canada because of his political position,” said Nazami.
Galloway’s lawyers were forced to look south of the boarder to strengthen their case.
There is no case law in Canada regarding the barring of democratically elected officials, said Nazami.
Rafeef Ziabah, a prominent Palestinian activist, said many organizations have been under attack since the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism Jason Kenney took office.
“It is clear that Kenney is trying to silence controversial views, but we have the right to say what we want to and we are not going to stop saying it,” said Ziabah.
The panel made it clear as to who they believe are directly affected by freedom of speech and expression violations.
“Marginalized groups are the only ones that are being silenced. This is done through intimidation tactics and barriers created to avoid the organization of these groups,” said Ziabah.