Bush entry protested
By Brendan Howe
A university group does not just want former United States President George Bush to stay away from the University of Toronto, they don't want him to be allowed into Canada.
The Ontario Public Interest Research Group sent a letter yesterday to Lucienne Robillard, Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, including a list of 19 war crimes they believe Bush committed as director of the CIA and as Vice and U.S. President.
"People are kept out of Canada for a lot less than what Bush has done," said Elena Lonera, coordinator of OPIRG. She said they want the Minister to explain what steps are taken when examining a war criminal.
Examples OPIRG claims are Bush war crimes include "a massive cover up of illegal covert operations in Angola" and "violating the terms of the Geneva Convention by using chemical weapons to burn Iraqis alive" during the Gulf War.
Jim McGrath, spokesperson for Bush, laughed when he heard about the letter. "I think these people, whether they want to admit it or not, have a sense of humour," he said.
Bush was recently offered an honorary degree by U of T and will be visiting the Toronto campus on Nov. 19.
Canadian legislation says a person is inadmissible to Canada if there are reasonable grounds to believe they have committed an act outside of Canada which constitutes a war crime, departmental spokesperson Huguette Shouldic said.
She explained there has to be sufficient grounds before someone will be denied entry or deported from the country. Hearsay alone will not be acted upon.
OPIRG is writing the letter as part of their extensive campaign against the former President being awarded a degree from the university. Lonera said plans are also underway for a protest at the next governing council meeting Nov. 3 and a letter will also be given to the council which she expects will have over 500 signatures.
"We're trying to bring together as many different groups and communities as possible. We want to tell the world Toronto does not want Bush here," she said.
Plans are also underway for an "unwelcoming committee" when Bush comes to campus, Lonera said. But she added the upcoming protest probably will not affect the decision to grant the degree. "Governing council does not have a history of listening to the people they represent," she said.
Vice-chair of the governing council, Wendy Cecil-Cockwell, said there will probably be a lot of security on hand in case the protest is not peaceful, as well as Bush's personal security. "I'd expect Bush is a seasoned veteran of protests."
David Galbraith, an English professor, organized an earlier letter to the university's president Robert Prichard, signed by over 100 faculty members, but said he has yet to receive a response. He said the faculty plans to get together soon and discuss their next plan of action, adding a protest is not out of the question.