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 Posted Tuesday, January 26, 1999

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January 25, 1999


Uninvited Guest

LAST WEEK, House of Commons Speaker Gilbert Parent banned Doug Christie from the parliamentary precincts.

The Speaker's office defended the ban on the grounds that Mr. Christie as a lawyer represents a notorious Holocaust denier, one Ernst Zundel, in a lawsuit against the Commons stemming from a ban imposed on Mr. Zundel himself last June. Don Boudria, the government house leader, said Mr. Christie is simply Mr. Zundel's "messenger," and that permitting him access to the Press Gallery would be tantamount to rolling out the red carpet for him.

Unpopular barrister Doug ChristieNo one is strongly inclined to do that; Mr. Christie [right] might certainly choose a better class of clients (he also defended James Keegstra); and Parliament's privileges doubtless include the power to ban undesirables from its precincts. But such privileges, when exercised, invite examination. Are all undesirables banned (always excepting actual MPs)? Or only some? What criteria are used?

Whatever his faults, the irascible Mr. Christie is neither a murderer nor terrorist, indeed a veritable lightweight when compared to two recently honoured guests to the Commons, Fidel Castro, the Cuban dictator, and Gerry Adams, the president of Sinn Fein. Mr. Castro is responsible for torture, terrorism, censorship, mass murder, and 40 years of dictatorship, and Mr. Adams held leading positions in the terrorist organization that is responsible for about two-thirds of the 3,300 political murders in Northern Ireland in the last 30 years. Yet they were warmly welcomed by the Commons.

THE pragmatic excuse is sometimes made that such guests have to be welcomed because it is they who have the power to negotiate ceasefires and peace processes. Very well. Let them be directed to obscure government offices where mutually convenient treaties can be hammered out without publicity. What is objectionable is that they should be treated as distinguished statesmen -- or even as the equal of democratically elected politicians whose torturing stops at the English language. The standing ovation that MPs, led by Mr. Parent, gave to Gerry Adams disgraced them and must have been a bitter blow to his victims and their relatives.

Inviting Zundel himself could scarcely have disgraced Parliament more.

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