Ezra Levant, Freedom of Speech Champion, Faces So-Called Human Rights Tribunal. A Kangaroo Court. Articles, January 2008.

Ezra Levant,
Warrior for Freedom of Speech
against a Canadian System
Set Up to Indimidate and Silence


Ezra Levant - freedom of speech
Ezra Levant

The limits of free speech,
and the power to order me to apologiz

By Ezra Levant on January 13, 2008

Officer McGovern asked if I thought there should be any limits to free speech under our constitution. Of course there should be, and I listed a half-dozen examples. But I drew a distinction between criminal or tortious speech and political speech. I also pointed out that free political speech isn't just protected in a liberal democracy -- it protects a liberal democracy. That's because it acts as a "safety valve" for people who want to change society. They don't have to resort to arms.

We also discussed the absurd -- and illegal -- power of the commission to "order" me to apologize for publishing the cartoons, even if I didn't feel contrite. Officer McGovern confirmed that was the remedy sought by the complainants.

At exactly one minute into this clip, I describe the Canadian legal test that governments must meet before they're allowed to override freedom of speech -- it's called the Oakes Test. Officer McGovern nods her head in agreement. But look at any -- actually, every -- human rights decision: these commissions claim that the Oakes Test doesn't apply to their censorship. See here, for example, the Boissoin case to which I referred. The panelist explicitly ruled, at paragraphs 356 and 357, that no constitutional test was needed before trumping a pastor's right to publish Christian views on homosexuality. Officer McGovern humoured me with her head-nod, but in fact the commission does not apply the Oakes Test.


"You're entitled to your opinions"
By Ezra Levant on January 13, 2008

Here is an exchange between me and Officer McGovern. I talked about the chilling effect that human rights complaints have not just on the victims -- e.g. the people and companies named in the complaints, like we were -- but on other media who see what could happen to them if they dare upset thin-skinned whiners. It's similar to the phenomenon of libel chill, except it's worse. Libel chill is when reporters are worried about writing a story for fear of being sued. But that's not much more than a healthy fear -- if a story's facts are true, it's defensible in defamation law. More than that, any would-be plaintiff would have to finance his own lawsuit, be subject to well-known rules of court, and have to pay the costs of any failed nuisance suits. None of those restraints are checks againt "human rights commission chill": truth is not a defence; plaintiffs complain for free; taxpayers pay for the prosecuting lawyers; rules are arbitrary; legal precedents are not applied consistently; and instead of judges, tribunals are stacked with activists, many not even lawyers.

The worst part is that there is no deterrent to spurious complaints -- there is no cost to making false accusations. That's where the "human rights chill" comes in: why would any rational publisher or editor report on sensitive subjects (read: radical Islam) if they knew they would be tagged with a no-win complaint?

That's the point I was making. And after I made it, Officer McGovern said "you're entitled to your opinions, that's for sure."

Well, actually, I'm not, am I? That's the reason I was sitting there. I don't have the right to my opinions, unless she says I do.


I don't answer to the state
By Ezra Levant on January 12, 2008

We have the right to be rude. It's not a cost-free right; being rude shouldn't be. It marginalizes us socially; removes us from polite company; loses us friends. A business -- such as a magazine -- that is offensive may lose readers, advertisers and even staff and investors.

Publishing the Danish cartoons wasn't rude -- by western, liberal standards. It wasn't even rude by the standards of most Muslims, especially most Canadian Muslims. Even radical Muslims only "decided" to riot in places like Iran and Syria when those two dictatorships had a need for an anti-Western riot -- not because any of the rioters actually saw the cartoons.

I was happy to answer for the conduct of our magazine to anyone who asked -- reporters, readers, the public in general. I probably get asked about the decision once a week, and it's been two years now. But I won't explain myself to the government.


Violence in Alberta
By Ezra Levant on January 12, 2008

The hearings were actually in response to two complaints. The first was filed by a radical imam in Calgary, Syed Soharwardy, a tin-pot fascist who has publicly called for Canada to be ruled by sharia law. Soharwardy boasts of his studies in Pakistani madrassahs and his religious lectures in Saudi universities, and he's bringing those Saudi and Pakistani values to Canada.

The second, almost identical, complaint was made by the Edmonton Muslim council. The chief difference between the two is that the Edmontonians cleaned up their spelling and grammar, and left out some of the nuttier sharia law arguments that are Soharwardy's specialty.

The "human rights" officer asked me to answer the Edmonton complaint that these cartoons made life dangerous for Muslims, and ought to be banned for that reason. Here's my response. (The case I refer to can be read here.)


What was your intent?

By Ezra Levant on January 12, 2008

Our magazine had published eight of the Danish cartoons to illustrate a story (you can read it here after a quick and free registration) about the cartoon riots and the Western media's fear of printing them.

The magazine spoke for itself -- it's an artifact; anyone could see the words and pictures we used. Why would the commission ask me about my "intentions"?

Why would my intentions as publisher be relevant in determining whether or not the publication was illegal? The answer is that these "human rights" commissions are interested in what George Orwell called "thought crimes". If my thoughts were pure, the publication might receive their blessing. If my thoughts were impure, the very same publication would be banned. It's worse than a limit on freedom of expression -- which is when you say or print what's on your mind. It's a test of what's on your mind itself -- a limit on freedom of thought.

Again, I refer to Hannah Arendt's phrase, "the banality of evil". No six-foot brownshirt, no police cell at midnight. Just Shirlene McGovern, an amiable enough bureaucrat, casually asking me about my political thoughts, on behalf of the government of Alberta. And she'll write up a report about it, and recommend that the government do this or that to me. Just going through checklists, you see.

If you don't pay attention, you might not even realize that freedoms are being eroded. I had half-expected a combative, missionary-style interrogator. I found, instead, a limp clerk who was just punching the clock. She had done it dozens of times before, and will do it dozens of times again. In a way, that's more terrifying.


Opening statement
By Ezra Levant on January 12, 2008

A video clip of my opening statement. The other two people in the room are the "human rights officer", Shirlene McGovern, and my lawyer Tom Ross.

This is what an interrogation in 2008 looks like. It's not in a dungeon, or even a secure government facility. It's not done by paramilitaries in uniforms. It looks banal -- in a meeting room at a law office, with a bored bureaucrat. It's what Hannah Arendt called "the banality of evil".


Some press coverage
By Ezra Levant on January 11, 2008

At today's "human rights" interrogation, I was not permitted to bring anyone other than my lawyer and my wife along -- the "human rights officer" barred others from attending as observers, even other officers of the magazine (such as our former editor). The news media who showed up congregated in the lobby of the law firm and waited until we were done.

But my lawyer and I insisted that we be permitted to record the interrogation, for use when we appeal the commission's decision to a real court. The officer allowed the video camera, but asked that we keep the recording confidential. But, over a year ago, our lawyer served notice on the commission that we reserved the right to publish any communications to or from the commission whatsoever, and that they should govern themselves accordingly. It's not surprising that a censor like the commission would want to do its censorship in the dark.

I'm currently downloading the 90-minute recording. It's too long to upload on YouTube (they limit uploads to ten minutes), and much of the interrogation was repetitive. I will endeavour to upload the most interesting exchanges over the next few days.

In the meantime, here is the first news report that I've seen on the subject, from CanWest News. An excerpt:

"A secular government bureaucracy has essentially been hijacked by a radical Muslim imam," [Levant] said. "It's being used to further his fatwa against these cartoons."

"We have a great tradition of free speech in Canada," he said.

"My freedom to publish a cartoon that some radical Muslim imam doesn't like, well that's the free west for ya."


Kangaroo court
By Ezra Levant on January 11, 2008

I have just returned home from my session at the kangaroo court, called the Alberta human rights commission. Here is my opening statement that I delivered at the interrogation. I will post more details about the interrogation soon.

Alberta Human Rights Commission Interrogation
Opening remarks by Ezra Levant, January 11, 2008 – Calgary

My name is Ezra Levant. Before this government interrogation begins, I will make a statement.

When the Western Standard magazine printed the Danish cartoons of Mohammed two years ago, I was the publisher. It was the proudest moment of my public life. I would do it again today. In fact, I did do it again today. Though the Western Standard, sadly, no longer publishes a print edition, I posted the cartoons this morning on my website, ezralevant.com.

I am here at this government interrogation under protest. It is my position that the government has no legal or moral authority to interrogate me or anyone else for publishing these words and pictures. That is a violation of my ancient and inalienable freedoms: freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and in this case, religious freedom and the separation of mosque and state. It is especially perverted that a bureaucracy calling itself the Alberta human rights commission would be the government agency violating my human rights. So I will now call those bureaucrats “the commission” or “the hrc”, since to call the commission a “human rights commission” is to destroy the meaning of those words.

I believe that this commission has no proper authority over me. The commission was meant as a low-level, quasi-judicial body to arbitrate squabbles about housing, employment and other matters, where a complainant felt that their race or sex was the reason they were discriminated against. The commission was meant to deal with deeds, not words or ideas. Now the commission, which is funded by a secular government, from the pockets of taxpayers of all backgrounds, is taking it upon itself to be an enforcer of the views of radical Islam. So much for the separation of mosque and state.

I have read the past few years’ worth of decisions from this commission, and it is clear that it has become a dump for the junk that gets rejected from the real legal system. I read one case where a male hair salon student complained that he was called a “loser” by the girls in the class. The commission actually had a hearing about this. Another case was a kitchen manager with Hepatitis-C, who complained that it was against her rights to be fired. The commission actually agreed with her, and forced the restaurant to pay her $4,900. In other words, the commission is a joke – it’s the Alberta equivalent of a U.S. television pseudo-court like Judge Judy – except that Judge Judy actually was a judge, whereas none of the commission’s panellists are judges, and some aren’t even lawyers. And, unlike the commission, Judge Judy believes in freedom of speech.
It’s bad enough that this sick joke is being wreaked on hair salons and restaurants. But it’s even worse now that the commissions are attacking free speech. That’s my first point: the commissions have leapt out of the small cage they were confined to, and are now attacking our fundamental freedoms. As Alan Borovoy, Canada’s leading civil libertarian, a man who helped form these commissions in the 60’s and 70’s, wrote, in specific reference to our magazine, being a censor is, quote, “hardly the role we had envisioned for human rights commissions. There should be no question of the right to publish the impugned cartoons.” Unquote. Since the commission is so obviously out of control, he said quote “It would be best, therefore, to change the provisions of the Human Rights Act to remove any such ambiguities of interpretation.” Unquote.

The commission has no legal authority to act as censor. It is not in their statutory authority. They’re just making it up – even Alan Borovoy says so.

But even if the commissions had some statutory fig leaf for their attempts at political and religious censorship, it would still be unlawful and unconstitutional.

We have a heritage of free speech that we inherited from Great Britain that goes back to the year 1215 and the Magna Carta. We have a heritage of eight hundred years of British common law protection for speech, augmented by 250 years of common law in Canada.

That common law has been restated in various fundamental documents, especially since the Second World War.

In 1948, the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, to which Canada is a party, declared that, quote:
“Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.”

The 1960 Canadian Bill of Rights guaranteed, quote

1. ? human rights and fundamental freedoms, namely,
(c) freedom of religion; (d) freedom of speech; (e) freedom of assembly and association; and (f) freedom of the press.
In 1982, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms guaranteed, quote:
2. Everyone has the following fundamental freedoms:
a) freedom of conscience and religion;
b) freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press and other media of communication;

Those were even called "fundamental freedoms" – to give them extra importance.

For a government bureaucrat to call any publisher or anyone else to an interrogation to be quizzed about his political or religious expression is a violation of 800 years of common law, a Universal Declaration of Rights, a Bill of Rights and a Charter of Rights. This commission is applying Saudi values, not Canadian values.

It is also deeply procedurally one-sided and unjust. The complainant – in this case, a radical Muslim imam, who was trained at an officially anti-Semitic university in Saudi Arabia, and who has called for sharia law to govern Canada – doesn’t have to pay a penny; Alberta taxpayers pay for the prosecution of the complaint against me. The victims of the complaints, like the Western Standard, have to pay for their own lawyers from their own pockets. Even if we win, we lose – the process has become the punishment. (At this point, I’d like to thank the magazine’s many donors who have given their own money to help us fight against the Saudi imam and his enablers in the Alberta government.)
It is procedurally unfair. Unlike real courts, there is no way to apply for a dismissal of nuisance lawsuits. Common law rules of evidence don’t apply. Rules of court don’t apply. It is a system that is part Kafka, and part Stalin. Even this interrogation today – at which I appear under duress – saw the commission tell me who I could or could not bring with me as my counsel and advisors.

I have no faith in this farcical commission. But I do have faith in the justice and good sense of my fellow Albertans and Canadians. I believe that the better they understand this case, the more shocked they will be. I am here under your compulsion to answer the commission’s questions. But it is not I who am on trial: it is the freedom of all Canadians.

You may start your interrogation.


My visit to a kangaroo court
By Ezra Levant on January 11, 2008

Today at 2 p.m. I will appear before an Alberta "human rights officer" for an interrogation. I am being interrogated for the political crime of publishing the Danish cartoons in the Western Standard nearly two years ago.

As a lawyer, I've been in different courts and tribunals, but I've never experienced a kangaroo court first-hand. I will have a more comprehensive report later today. In the meantime, I leave you with three documents:

1. The hand-scrawled complaint filed against the magazine by a radical, Saudi-trained imam who has publicly called for sharia law to be imposed in Canada;

2. My response to that complaint; and

3. A look at those cartoons again.

As they say in Virginia, sic semper tyrannis!


To go from these articles and video clips
from Ezra Levant
back to the suggestions on getting heard,
click here

To go from these artics and video clips
from Ezra Levant
to the first set of suggestions
on getting heard about Islam
and the dangers of political correctness,
click here

Ezra Levant, Freedom of Speech Champion,
Faces So-Called Human Rights Tribunal.
A Kangaroo Court.
Articles, January 2008.





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