Controversial speaker denied access to Parliament for a second time
Just over an hour before Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was to rise in the House of Commons Wednesday and deliver an apology to Canada’s Sikh population for the 1914 Komagata Maru incident, Paul Fromm — anti-immigration activist previously banned from entering Parliament — was scheduled to hold a press conference opposing it.
Though his press conference was ultimately cancelled and Fromm was denied access to the Parliamentary precinct late Wednesday morning, that only came after some eleventh hour scrambling.
“Prime Minister Trudeau’s apology to Sikhs for the Dominion Government’s decision 102 years ago to turn back the ‘Komagata Maru’, a ship carrying 376 Indians, mostly Sikhs, is humiliating and wrong,” Fromm, who heads up something called the Canada First Immigration Reform Committee, was quoted in a media advisory.
Fromm was previously connected to Holocaust denier Ernst Zundel and has been criticized by human rights groups for his racist views.
His press conference was supposed to take place at 1:30, but just before 11 a notification was sent to the press gallery advising that it had been cancelled, without an explanation.
The office of the speaker of the house of commons confirmed to iPolitics that, “further to a recommendation from the Deputy Sergeant at Arms, and based on past practice”, Fromm had been denied access to the precinct.
That past practice referred to a motion brought by Conservative MP Jason Kenney in 2007, which ordered Paul Fromm and an individual named Alexan Kulbashian “be denied admittance to the precincts of the House of Commons during the present session to preserve the dignity and integrity of the House.”
It was unanimously adopted by the House and applauded by Bernie Farber, head of the Canadian Jewish Congress.
“It’s a good day for Canadian politics when all three parties can come together and recognize that Paul Fromm doesn’t deserve to be on Parliament Hill,” Farber said at the time.
Kenney couldn’t be reached Wednesday, but in 2007 he said Fromm and Kulbashian were free to express their views outside of Parliament, but had no right to do so inside.
“If they want to get a soapbox and go out in front of the Parliament Buildings in this free country, they’re welcome to do so, but this House isn’t going to let them use public, taxpayer-funded resources,” he said then.
Fromm responded by calling it “preemptive censorship” in a blog post.
The whole episode got quite a bit of attention and drew comparisons to when Zundel himself was prevented from giving a press conference in Parliament 1998 after a MPs adopted a motion presented by then Liberal House leader Don Boudria.
In contrast, several MPs told iPolitics following question period Wednesday they were unaware Fromm was even supposed to hold a press conference earlier in the day.