It hasn’t been a good fall for Gavin McInnes, the Canadian-born gadfly of the U.S. far right.
First, several members of the group he founded – the Proud Boys – were arrested last month after a brawl outside one of his speaking appearances. Then a report emerged suggesting the FBI had designated the organization an extremist outfit. The group describes itself as “western chauvinists” who see their culture as under siege.
Finally, McInnes announced earlier this month he was quitting the Proud Boys in the hope of helping those who were arrested. “I’m told by my legal team and law enforcement that this gesture could help alleviate their sentencing,” he said at the time.
And then Friday came another setback, this time in Australia. Media reports say the government there has refused to issue McInnes a visa, ruling he had failed what the Australians call the “character test” for foreign visitors.
He had booked a speaking tour of several cities with Tommy Robinson, a U.K. far-right activist. They were promoting “The Deplorables” tour as a comedy act.
The government’s decision came after a petition with 81,000 signatures was submitted to Parliament, calling for the Canadian to be kept out of the country.
“To have allowed him to come still I think would have made it seem as if the Government had given tacit approval at the very least to these calls for violence against people you don’t agree with as a legitimate form of free speech,” lawyer Nyadol Nyuon, who spearheaded the petition, told Australia’s ABC broadcaster.
“It’s not and it should never be.”
Among other things, the character test applied by Australia’s Home Affairs Department says entrants to the country cannot vilify a segment of the local population, incite discord or be a danger. Visa applicants with a criminal record can also be denied under the test.
Applicants may appeal visa rejects to an administrative tribunal, but Australian media reported that McInnes has already missed the deadline for appealing.
In a text message to News Corp Australia, McInnes said he wasn’t bothered by the news of his visa rejection. “Getting screamed at by a bunch of delusional SJWs isn’t exactly the best environment for comedy,” he said, referring to left-wing activists (sometimes derisively called social justice warriors).
Australia’s character test for visas, which can also be used to cancel an existing visa, is used regularly and has long been controversial. Critics say it gives too much discretionary power to Australian cabinet ministers and degrades the principle of free speech.
Earlier this year, Chelsea Manning — the former U.S. military analyst who was convicted of leaking a massive trove of classified information to Wikileaks — had to change a speaking engagement in Australia after she was informed by the Australian government she would likely fail the character test due to her record. She gave the speech by video from New Zealand instead.
Other recent high-profile cases of visa rejections include Chris Brown, the U.S. singer with a record of domestic violence, and notorious pick-up artist Julien Blanc, who had his visa cancelled by Australia’s immigration minister in 2014 for promoting “abuse that was derogatory to women.”
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