The case of Gary Freeman

After QP, Immigration Minister Jason Kenney was asked if he wished to correct the record on Gary Freeman.

After QP, Immigration Minister Jason Kenney was asked if he wished to correct the record on Gary Freeman.

Yes, I’m sorry. Gary Freeman, otherwise known as Joseph Pannell, was convicted of shooting and I believe blinding a police officer in the United States, not killing him so I should have said cop shooter, not cop killer. I do find it peculiar that Mr. Mulcair intervened and sought to have political intervention to give special permission for a violent convicted cop shooter and a former member of the criminal Black Panther movement to be permitted into Canada just as Mr. Mulcair’s party asked for political discretion to be used to prevent a former Vice-President of the United States from coming into Canada. And now he seems to believe that a decision on this individual should also be made on the basis of political criteria. It’s very important for us to maintain the independent principle of the rule of law in the application of immigration law. And I don’t think that whether individuals should be permitted into Canada should be a subject for politicians making subjective decisions. Rather, they should be made by highly-trained, independent public servants applying consistently legal principles.

The officer in question, Terrence Knox, wasn’t blinded, he was partially paralyzed in one arm. Mr. Knox passed away a year ago.

Mr. Freeman says he was not a member of the Black Panthers (and he and his lawyer argue that former members of the Black Panthers have been known to travel to and from Canada). In a 2005 Toronto Star feature, Peter Edwards and Harold Levy questioned the alleged association.

Early news reports in Chicago did not describe Pannell as a Black Panther. His case was written about a dozen times in the Chicago Tribune before he was finally connected with the organization in December 1977, when he was described as “reputedly a Black Panther.”

The Panthers, founded by Huey Newton and Bobby Seale, were prone to revolutionary, often violent rhetoric and had bitter enemies in both local street gangs and the police force. But they were also known for their community initiatives, like their free breakfast program for children. The FBI was said to have been responsible for the group’s eventual demise, stirring rivalries within its numerous factions.

In an affidavit filed last year after Pannell’s arrest, Kadish stated that some Black Panthers referred Pannell to him in the 1960s, but that he was not a member.

Former Panther Bill Jennings, who worked at the party’s national headquarters in Oakland, Calif., and describes himself as the “party historian,” says he can’t recall Pannell. Neither could some 200 former Panthers who attended a recent reunion in Chicago after Pannell’s arrest in Toronto.

“His name came up and people said he was not a member of the organization,” Jennings recalled in an interview, noting that many non-Panthers helped out in the breakfast program. “I don’t know why they are trying to say he was a party member.”