'Bureaucratic barriers' keep Galloway off Dal campus

Organizers accuse Dalhousie of preventing controversial guest from speaking; university disagrees

Tamara Lorincz, spokesperson for the Halifax Peace Coalition, with her son in the new space for George Galloway's speech at St. Andrew's Church. (Photo: Geoff Bird)

The Halifax Peace Coalition is accusing Dalhousie University of putting up hurdles that prevented it from hosting outspoken former British MP George Galloway, a charge the university disputes.

"In my 11 years of organizing events in Halifax on social justice events, I've never had the difficulty that I've had in securing a space for George Galloway," said Tamara Lorincz, spokesperson for the Halifax Peace Coalition.

She said that Dalhousie put up a series of "bureaucratic barriers" that forced her organization to move Galloway's Nov. 18 speech from the university to St. Andrew's United Church.

Galloway made headlines last spring when the federal government banned him from entering the country because of his support for the Palestinian political party Hamas, which the government considers a terrorist organization.

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St. Andrew's United Church will now host George Galloway. (Photo: Geoff Bird)

A Supreme Court of Canada decision rejected the ban, clearing the way for Galloway's current cross-country tour. He's visiting several major Canadian cities giving a speech titled "Free Palestine. Free Afghanistan. Free Speech."

Security risk and cost

Lorincz said she first approached Dalhousie in late October looking for a space to host "a guest lecturer on the Middle East." It was only in later conversation that she revealed Galloway as the lecturer. After that, she said Dalhousie made a series of demands that forced them to look elsewhere for a venue.

She said Dalhousie wanted more money for extra security.

In addition to the normal rental charge, they wanted to bill for both Dalhousie security and Halifax Regional Police to oversee the event, as well as external insurance to cover any damages that might occur.

Lorincz said the university wanted nearly $1,300 from the organizers, an amount she called "prohibitively expensive."

She said the head of Dalhousie security told her that Galloway was a security risk because he speaks about controversial topics.

She said she asked Dalhousie administration to detail in writing why it thought Galloway presents a security risk but it ignored her request.

Charles Crosby, head of media relations at Dalhousie, disagrees with Lorincz. "We bent over backwards trying to accommodate them," he said.

He said after negotiations with Lorincz, Dalhousie relented and agreed to cover the cost of insurance and campus security. He said they offered to drop the requirement for police if there were no incidents during Galloway's other university stops before Halifax.

Still, Lorincz said she wasn't comfortable with the security presence. She said the presence of police would take away from her mandate of promoting peace.

She said the coalition opposes heightened security on principle.

"We don't believe that George Galloway poses any security risk," she said. "We don't believe that free Palestine, free Afghanistan and free speech are controversial topics. These are themes at events that are regularly held on campus."

Freedom of speech on campus

Other universities have reacted differently to Galloway. He's scheduled to stop in Hamilton on Nov. 21 at McMaster University, where the administration accepted Galloway on first request.

Andrea Farquhar, head of public relations at McMaster, said that the administration doesn't expect there to be any security concerns during Galloway's speech.

"Certainly he's a controversial speaker and people have very different views about him and what he might say on our campus," said Andrea Farquhar, "But we expect a level of respect from anyone who's on our campus, which ties into our belief in freedom of speech and academic freedom."

Lorincz thinks that Dalhousie should have had a similar attitude on Galloway.

Dalhousie should be, "trying to promote, free speech, critical thinking, good healthy debate and dialogue," she said. "They should have welcomed us when we put in the request. They should have said great, we welcome good healthy debate."

Lorincz cancelled her booking with Dalhousie after St. Andrew's United Church offered to host the event. St. Andrew's doesn't require security to monitor the event and only charges by donation for use of their hall.

Comments on this story are now closed

Ugghh.. it seems like everyones trying to get more money out of the situation... why cant they jsut let the man come and speak??

Posted by seth goossens | Nov 17, 2021

"Certainly he's a controversial speaker and people have very different views about him and what he might say on our campus," said Andrea Farquhar, "But we expect a level of respect from anyone who's on our campus, which ties into our belief in freedom of speech and academic freedom." So why didn't this wonderful respect for 'freedom of speech' and 'academic freedom' apply when Ann Coulter came to Halifax? Or when other prominent conservative speakers also visited? Where was the 'level of respect'? Was it displayed by the myriad of lefty protesters that protested against 'hate' until their speeches were cancelled?? Hypocrisy at its finest. I see the 'You're allowed to believe what you want, as long as its what we believe' mindset is in full control of Halifax's massive lefty community. In the future, the hippies are the new Nazi's.

Posted by Laura Anderson | Nov 20, 2021

My wife and I often come to Halifax to visit and we always attend St. Andrew's. Never again! Why any Christian group would offer this man a platform for his anti-Christian anti-Bible venom speaks volumes about St. Andrew's. By the way, be prepared to hear about dashing a baby head against a stone wall. Yes, it's in the Bible and that's about the extent that George knows about the Christian book. UC congregation, stay away from this brain-washing session being hosted by your church.

Posted by Raymond, Canada | Nov 20, 2021