The Internet Saved My Tongue

How I beat Canada's 'human rights' censors

Early on the morning of February 13, 2006, nearly 40,000 copies of the Western Standard rolled off the presses in Edmonton, Alberta. Tucked inside that week’s issue of Canada’s only national conservative magazine, on pages 15 and 16, was a story about the international controversy over a Danish newspaper that had printed a dozen satirical cartoons featuring the prophet Muhammad. Our article, which was illustrated by eight of the cartoons, would soon trigger a three year government investigation of whether I, as the Western Standard’s publisher, had violated the rights of Canadian Muslims by “discriminating” against their religion.

The investigation vividly illustrated how Canada’s provincial and national human rights commissions (HRCs), created in the 1970s to police discrimination in employment, housing, and the provision of goods and services, have been hijacked as weapons against speech that offends members of minority groups. My eventual victory over this censorious assault suggests that Western governments will find it increasingly difficult in the age of the Internet to continue undermining human rights in the name of defending them.

By commissioning the Muhammad cartoons, the Danish newspaper, the Jyllands-Posten, was making a point about the West’s fear of insulting Islam. A Danish author and longtime leftist activist named Kåre Bluitgen had written a children’s book about Muhammad, but because some Muslims consider visual depictions of their prophet taboo, Bluitgen found it difficult to find an illustrator. Jyllands-Posten editors wanted to highlight this Danish culture of self-censorship and show the newspaper’s support for freedom of speech by publishing their own cartoons of Muhammad.

A few of the images were critical of radical Islam, but the criticism wasn’t any harsher than that routinely heaped on other religions and ideologies in the editorial cartoons of Western newspapers. One showed Muhammad in heaven, saying, “Stop, stop, we ran out of virgins!” as suicide bombers floated up to the clouds. Another depicted Muhammad wearing a turban in the shape of a bomb.

The cartoons were published in September 2005, but they didn’t make international news until the next year, when a group of Danish imams went on a world tour to drum up Muslim anger against Denmark. The imams brought three additional cartoons along with the original dozen. Those three additions, which hadn’t been published in Denmark or anywhere else, were grotesque, including one showing Muhammad having sex with a dog. They were the imams’ own handiwork, added to the bundle in case the Jyllands-Posten efforts didn’t achieve the desired response. Up until that moment, the phrase cartoon violence had summoned to mind images no more harmful than Wile E. Coyote fighting the Road Runner. But after the imam tour in the spring of 2006, more than 100 people died in purportedly spontaneous riots against the cartoons. Half a dozen terrorist plots to avenge the artwork were uncovered across Europe. Demagogic governments from Tehran to Damascus seized the opportunity to deflect attention away from their own problems.

Every newspaper and TV station in the Western world covered the story of the riots, but almost none of them showed the original cartoons themselves. The media’s self-censorship was based on the same fear exhibited by Denmark’s illustrators. As a journalist, I was appalled by this cowardice masquerading as sensitivity. Western Standard editor Kevin Libin and I knew our readers would be interested in this story and would want to see for themselves what all the fuss was about.

As our publication date drew nearer, we couldn’t help noticing that no other mainstream publication in Canada was planning to reprint the cartoons. We’d be the first, and possibly only, one. We sent the magazine to our printers on Friday, February 10, for printing over the weekend. The next day, word of the deed somehow leaked. By Sunday our decision had become national news, even though no one except our staff and our printers had seen the spread.

I must have done 100 interviews that week. The first would be particularly memorable. At 7 a.m. on Monday, February 13, while our magazine was being trucked from our printers to the post office, I appeared on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s Eye Opener radio show in Calgary. The amiable Jim Brown was the host, and the other guest was Syed Soharwardy. All I knew about Soharwardy at the time was that he was a Pakistani immigrant to Canada who worked for IBM and had a part-time gig as a preacher at a tiny mosque in a northeast Calgary strip mall. Soharwardy had very few followers—about 40 congregants in a city that was home to thousands of Muslims. But he was a big-time media hound, always trolling for interviews while the city’s more prominent imams rolled their eyes.

I explained the newsworthiness of the cartoons. But Soharwardy wasn’t quite in sync with our Canadian concepts of freedom of the press and the separation of religion and state. He called me a “terrorist” for publishing the cartoons—a bit rich, coming from someone who, I later learned, does the radical Muslim lecture circuit in Saudi Arabia. Then he announced to startled CBC listeners that he was a direct descendant of Muhammad and therefore felt personally offended. I wasn’t quite sure what to do with that one, so I kept on message, saying Soharwardy was free to follow the Koran as his law, but we were in Canada, not Saudi Arabia. People like me could publish whatever they liked. The debate degenerated into a shouting match.

With other interviews to get to, I soon put the verbal fracas out of mind. Soharwardy did not. He was accustomed to fawning media treatment, bestowed by politically correct reporters delighted to have a spot of diversity in their news. He wasn’t used to facing disagreement or being called a radical. In Pakistan, where Soharwardy had been a student at a madrassah, someone who spoke that way to the imams would have been whipped. In Saudi Arabia, where Soharwardy had lectured at an officially anti-Semitic university, my blasphemy might even have resulted in the loss of my head.

So Soharwardy visited the Calgary Police Service, where he demanded that I be arrested. The police politely explained to him that he wasn’t in Saudi Arabia or Pakistan anymore and that police in Canada don’t enforce the Koran or get involved in political disputes. Next he filed a complaint with the Alberta Human Rights and Citizenship Commission (AHRCC). This body was more receptive to the idea that I should be punished for giving offense.

The AHRCC sent me a copy of Soharwardy’s complaint, a mishmash of personal braggadocio, Islamic supremacism, and whining, all handwritten in English surprisingly broken for someone who had been living in Canada for 20 years. It was riddled with misspellings, including erroneous renditions of my name and the name of my magazine. But the nature of Soharwardy’s thinking still managed to shine through.

“Ezra Lavant [sic] insulted me on air on CBC radio,” Soharwardy wrote. “He also said that the hateful cartoons are justified to be published in his magazine Western Standards.” He complained that “CBC, CTV and other media” dared to speak with me. Noting that he was “openly the follower and related to Prophet Muhammad,” Soharwardy wrote that our publication of the cartoons “have sighted violence, hate and discrimination against my family and me.” Such incitement (I’m guessing that’s what he meant) would have been quite a feat, given that the magazines hadn’t yet landed in any mailboxes and wouldn’t be on newsstands for another week.

As proof of his claims, Soharwardy included a raft of email messages he had received, including one that called him “excitable” and “humourless” and told him to “laugh” a little more. Another message said that there “are many fine Muslims out there,” but that radical Islam deserved to be mocked. This was the “violence” that Soharwardy faced: ordinary Canadians telling him off.

Soharwardy followed up his original complaint with a detailed list of legal arguments—but not from any Canadian law books. He cited passages from the Koran as his precedent, insisting that “the respect and obedience to Prophet Muhammad is the most basic requirement of Faith.” At the end of his letter, he offered both artistic and religious criticism of all eight of our Muhammad images, adding, “I am quite disturbed and mentally tortured by these cartoons.” And his demands were clear: “I am expecting a formal apology…from the Western Standard. Please help.”

The AHRCC was more than happy to help. The Alberta Human Rights, Citizenship, and Multiculturalism Act prohibits publishing anything that “is likely to expose a person or class of persons to hatred or contempt.” The theory was that hurtful words necessarily lead to hurtful deeds, and the vagueness of the law meant it was particularly useful as a tool of political censorship.

I consulted Tom Ross, a Calgary lawyer experienced in dealing with HRC complaints. Ross said there were two ways to respond: We could try to make the problem go away quickly, possibly with a cash payment, an apology, and participation in a reeducation session. Or we could fight like hell. After that initial conversation, we didn’t waste any time talking about option number one. I was outraged that a government agency was getting involved with the editorial decisions of our magazine.

The Western Standard was prepared to debate our decision to run the cartoons, but voluntarily, in a process involving our subscribers (who enthusiastically agreed with our decision), our advertisers (who were nervous at first but ultimately supported us), and our distributors (most of whom stood with us and saw strong newsstand sales). In the edition following the one in which the cartoons appeared, we ran an extended letters section, with the entire spectrum of views represented, including a worried mother of a Canadian soldier in Afghanistan, a Muslim immigrant to Canada who said she wanted to get away from Shariah law, and nutcases who said I published the cartoons only because I was Jewish. That’s what a public debate in Canada looks like.

Soharwardy didn’t participate. He preferred a Shariah-style solution. Six weeks after we published the cartoons, when members of the public had already chewed the issues over and made up their minds, when the commotion was dying down and we decided to let our extra security staff go, I got around to writing the Western Standard’s reply to Soharwardy’s complaint. “The complaint is a frivolous and vexatious abuse of process,” I began. “It has no basis in fact or Canadian law. It is contrary to Canadian values of freedom of speech, freedom of the press and religious plurality, under which Canadians are free from compulsion to submit to religious edicts. The complaint is an attempt to abuse the power of the state to chill discussion about subjects that are in the public interest. It is also an inappropriate combination of mosque and state, using a secular government agency to enforce a Muslim religious precept, namely the fundamentalist prohibition of the depiction of Mohammed.”

I still believe every word of that, but it’s a bit embarrassing that I actually thought those principles mattered. As I learned since, the right to not be offended trumps freedom of speech in Alberta. That’s the official position of the provincial government, as argued by its lawyer in Lund v. Boissoin, a case in which a Christian pastor was given a lifetime ban prohibiting him from criticizing gay marriage.

"If the [Commission] does not dismiss this complaint,” I continued, “the AHRCC will be discredited and its liberal reputation will be brought into disrepute. This complaint perverts the cause of human rights. If the AHRCC allows itself to be used to attack the publication of a good faith debate on these issues, the AHRCC will become a tool of censorship.…The AHRCC will send a message that the state, with its unlimited resources, will not hesitate to interfere with and harass media that discuss controversial topics.”

Unfortunately, I got that part right. A year later, in March 2007, Maclean’s magazine was hauled before three human rights commissions to answer for its discussion of radical Islam, in the form of an excerpt from Mark Steyn’s bestselling book, America Alone. Two years later, the Alberta commission ruled that Rev. Stephen Boissoin, a Christian pastor from Red Deer, may never again preach against gay marriage—or even disparage it in private emails. Needless to say, such gag orders cast a pall over public discussions of these issues.

I also had a sense that fighting the complaint would be costly. “Even an acquittal…is a punishment,” I wrote. “The process becomes the penalty.” I had no idea, however, that the process would stretch on for three years and cost me more than $100,000. The trouble and expense of such investigations help explain why so many people roll over when faced with a human rights complaint.

Eight months passed.

The AHRCC offered to set up a “conciliation meeting” with Soharwardy and representatives from the Edmonton Council of Muslim Communities, which had filed an almost identical complaint. I told the commission there could be only one form of “conciliation” that I would accept: that these complainants reconcile themselves to Canadian values and leave their Saudi-style approach to free speech overseas. The AHRCC’s next move was to offer me a plea bargain: It told Tom Ross, my lawyer, that if I agreed to publish an apology in the magazine and pay a few thousand dollars to the complainants, I could walk free. I replied that I would fight the AHRCC and its hijackers all the way to the Canadian Supreme Court before I did that—and even if I lost there, I’d contemplate doing jail time for contempt of court before apologizing.

One year after I had rejected the commission’s terms of surrender, it told Ross it was launching a formal investigation. I was to present myself to a “human rights officer” to be interrogated about my decision to print the controversial cartoons. If I refused the AHRCC’s “invitation” to be interrogated, its officers, under Section 23 of the Alberta Human Rights, Citizenship, and Multiculturalism Act, could enter my office and seize any “records and documents, including electronic records and documents, that are or may be relevant to the subject matter of the investigation.” Computer hard drives, confidential files, private correspondence, even letters between me and my lawyer could be seized, all without a search warrant. Section 24 of the act allowed AHRCC employees to ask a judge for permission to enter my home and take whatever they liked there, too.

After weeks of haggling over the details, the interrogation was scheduled for Friday, January 11, 2008, nearly two years after we published the cartoons, at my lawyer’s office in downtown Calgary. The human rights officer in charge of the investigation— Shirlene McGovern, a bland, middle-aged woman in casual clothes—did not seem intimidating. She arrived smiling and chatty, extending her hand to shake mine. I declined. Then McGovern, who had barred members of the press from the meeting, spotted the video camera we had set up, and she hesitated. She had agreed that I could record the proceedings but hadn’t explicitly consented to videotaping. With a shrug, she agreed to the camera. It was a decision she would come to regret.

I had prepared an opening statement. “When the Western Standard magazine printed the Danish cartoons of Muhammad two years ago,” I said, “it was the proudest moment of my public life. I would do it again today. In fact, I did do it again today.…I posted the cartoons this morning on my website, EzraLevant.com.” It was more refined than telling McGovern to fuck off, but it had the same effect. She was stunned.

“I am here at this government interrogation under protest,” I continued. “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.”

McGovern rolled her eyes. But I kept going. I declared that “the commission is a joke,” comparing it unfavorably with Judge Judy. I quoted Alan Borovoy, general counsel of the Canadian Civil Liberties Union, who had recently condemned the complaints against me as abusive. I called the AHRCC a violation of 800 years of British common law and 250 years of Canadian law, including our 1960 Bill of Rights and our Charter of Rights and Freedoms. I even quoted from the 1948 United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which protects free speech. “I have no faith in this farcical commission,” I concluded. “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.”

At the beginning of her interrogation, McGovern said, “I always ask people…what was your intent and purpose of your article?” Always? Just how often does McGovern haul people in for questioning about their politics? That’s one of the mysteries about these star chambers; we know only about the cases in which the targets are stubborn enough to fight. According to the HRC’s annual reports, the vast majority settle without a hearing. And why did my “purpose and intent” matter? Would the article we ran be legal if I had happy thoughts, but illegal if my thoughts somehow offended the commission’s sensibilities?

Toward the end of the meeting, McGovern cavalierly stated, “You’re entitled to your opinions, that’s for sure.” But that just wasn’t true, was it? If I had been entitled to my opinions, I wouldn’t have been summoned to a 90-minute interrogation by the government on pain of having my office and home searched if I refused. And I wouldn’t be standing accused in a human rights proceeding that could end with me being forced to pay tens of thousands of dollars, issue an apology, undergo re-education, and/or refrain from unapproved speech in the future.

When I got home, I watched the video of the interrogation. Then I spent the weekend uploading clips onto the Internet, using the video site YouTube. I emailed a couple of dozen friends, relatives, and colleagues about them. I thought the clips would get 1,000 views, maybe 10,000 at most. But that weekend, my “channel” on YouTube was the fifth-most-watched video site on the Internet. Within 10 days, 400,000 people had seen them.

The resulting media storm reminded me of the initial reaction in February 2006, when we had published the cartoons. But this time it was bigger, and the support I received was more uniform. The issue was no longer whether we should have published the cartoons; it was whether we had the right to do so. Even journalists and pundits who took issue with our decision in 2006 stood firmly with us in 2008.

Had I been charged with hate speech 10 years ago, I could not have fought back as effectively. If all this had happened in 1996 instead of 2006, few would have known anything about my battle. YouTube, which brought my story alive for 600,000 people by the time the traffic died down, debuted only in 2005. Before that, there was no universally surfed repository of current event–themed videos, and bloggers were much less prevalent. And without the credit card donations made possible by PayPal (which was started in 2000), it’s unlikely that I could have raised the money to cover my legal expenses.

In short, the Internet saved me. In that sense, my story isn’t just about free speech. It’s also about the way new technology has leveled the playing field between big government and private citizens.

The Internet may also spell the beginning of the end for the HRCs of the world. In the days after my meeting with McGovern, I began to blog about human rights commissions and free speech, encouraged by my worldwide support. EzraLevant.com became one of the five most popular political blogs in Canada, according to the statistics on Alexa.com. The Internet support, which soon crossed over into the mainstream media, reassured me that I was the “normal” one—that free speech was normal, that resisting government nosiness was normal—and that it was the HRCs and the Syed Soharwardys who were affronts to our Western values.

Ten days after my YouTube videos went up the AHRCC wrote to my lawyer saying that McGovern had quit my case, citing the popular backlash against her. Soharwardy, too, came under scrutiny. He’d always styled himself as the friendly neighborhood imam. But suddenly, with thousands of bloggers jumping down his throat, he was no longer in control of his own media image. Even the local Calgary newspapers, which used to dutifully go to Soharwardy for explanations of Muslim holidays, started asking him tough questions. It wasn’t long before the press dug up some of Soharwardy’s more outrageous comments, such as his call for all Canadians to live under Shariah and his accusation that Western aid agencies were kidnapping Muslim children.

A few weeks after a disastrous meeting with the editorial board of the Calgary Herald, Soharwardy abandoned his complaint against me, sticking taxpayers with the $500,000 tab for the AHRCC’s investigation and leaving me and the Western Standard with $100,000 in expenses. He just walked away, as the Alberta Human Rights, Citizenship, and Multiculturalism Act permitted him to do, without a penny in penalties or even an apology. A few months later, with Soharwardy out of the picture, the AHRCC quietly snuffed out the piggyback complaint from the Edmonton Council of Muslim Communities.

As Soharwardy told CBC’s nightly newscast The National, “People were looking at Ezra Levant as a martyr of freedom of his speech…taking this into a different direction that I did not want.” No kidding. Soharwardy wanted to use Alberta’s Human Rights and Citizenship Commission as a weapon to bully me, a critic of radical Islam who had embarrassed him on CBC radio. And he did bully me in the commission’s kangaroo court. But in the court of public opinion he had self-detonated. Within a few months, he left town, telling journalists he was going on a cross country “multifaith” walk against violence.

None of this would have happened had I not videotaped my interrogation and uploaded the results onto YouTube. I was the one who was supposed to crumple under the weight of a politically correct accuser and the AHRCC bureaucrats he coopted. Instead, McGovern quit and Soharwardy abandoned his complaint. For the first time in nearly three years, I felt as if my allies and I might win this fight— not just the narrow legal struggle about publishing a bunch of cartoons but the larger fight for our freedom.

Ezra Levant, former publisher of the Western Standard, is the author of Shakedown: How Our Government is Undermining Democracy in the Name of Human Rights (McClelland & Stewart Ltd.). This article is adapted from the book by permission of the publisher.

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  • ||

    "[W]hether he had violated the rights of Canadian Muslims by publishing the Muhammad cartoons."

    I read that statement and don't see how such a thing is possible in the liberal West. How can there be any conception of free speech when the heckler's veto reigns supreme over speech and press rights?

    Also, it seems like the law in question is hopelessly vague (unconstitutionally so if it were a U.S. law): "The Alberta Human Rights, Citizenship, and Multiculturalism Act prohibits publishing anything that 'is likely to expose a person or class of persons to hatred or contempt.'" Really, that's like defamation, without any of the defenses--like truth, the target is a public figure, etc.--and, apparently, without the focus on actual damages. Very vague and very scary stuff.

    For those who want the U.S. to become more like Europe or Canada, understand that there is a price to pay, not just in economic liberty, but in civil liberties.

  • Some Guy||

    I've always thought the complaints about companies not printing the cartoons were pretty stupid. To say "they won't print them because they don't want to offend muslims" requires one to ignore the probability of getting your office blown up over it.

    I think that not wanting to print some cartoons for fear of violent reprisal says more than the cartoons themselves did.

  • ||

    There's something to that, Some Guy. Too bad nobody printed a statement that they were refraining from printing material relevant to a current controversy because of credible threats of violence if they did so, combined with an analysis of why they considered the threats credible.

  • ||

    . . .or publicly stated that they were refraining because they were scared to face an HRC witch trial.

  • Paul||

    I was to present myself to a "human rights officer" to be interrogated about my decision to print the controversial cartoons.



    I wonder if it was written in that totally bad-ass heavy metal font with lots of umlauts.

  • High Every Body||

    All this Muslim talk has the wrong ads up. Can't we get some chatter about a bikini wearing religion? The Muslim gals are cute, from what little I can see, but I still prefer those Diva-whatever ads with their pretty brunettes.

    Come on team!

  • Barry Loberfeld||

    What I told Jerry Falwell (in an open letter) to do when he faced Canadian censorship:

    Rev. Falwell, why not commit "civil disobedience" by doing something outrageously radical -- namely, speaking your mind freely? Isn't LIBERTY a righteous cause to challenge the State? Yes, obviously the Canadian government is not bound by our First Amendment, so on what grounds should you take your stand? The firmest of all: "the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God," from which no government can exempt itself. Canada is another country, not an alternate reality. No nation can deny the "Truth" of the "unalienable Rights" of "all Men." We cannot allow borders to loom as barriers to the idea of freedom -- and the freedom of ideas.

    READ THE ENTIRE ARTICLE.

  • ||

    They wear the burka to hide the no-pest strip?

  • Paul||

    And yet the AHRCC and its mission still exist.

  • SxCx||

    I get not printing out of fear. It would have been great if editors simply admitted that, instead of deferring to bullshit about "irrelevance".

  • High Every Body||

    The Clean Coal ads are not a good substitute.

  • SxCx||

    The most perverse part of this ordeal is being forced to find Ezra Levant an inspiring figure.

  • d||

    Ezra Levant. My new personal hero. And here I thought Canadians were just a bunch of spineless PC ninnies...Oh shit! Is the HRC gonna come after me now?

  • mark||

    It would be nice to see this free speech campaign enlarged - the CRTC and "cultural protection" provisions do as much to stifle free speech in Canada as the HRC's. Free markets and free minds.

  • JB||

    Canada sucks. Can't we send all the PC Nazis from the US up to that wasteland?

  • Werner Patels||

    To answer the first commenter's question, this sort of thing happens in a country like Canada when successive governments over decades have given away the country to foreign and often unsavoury interests. Instead of the immigrants bending over backwards to integrate, it is the host country that does all the bending-over-backwards thing.

  • ||

    Free Canada! How can we invade a country like Iraq to free its people but just sit and watch our close ally sink into the abyss of oppression?

  • perilisk||

    If reprinting political cartoons mocking a guy dead for over a thousand years is a violation of human rights (and surely the AHRCC is not investigating Piss Jesus, so they're obviously bigoted in their approach to the issue), I think it's roughly as accurate to say that the AHRCC materially aids terrorism with its actions and should be tried for treason against Canada. I'm not saying that's accurate, just that it's -as- accurate.

  • Mike||

    Ezra Levant is no hero.

    How he "won"? All of the suits were dismissed on their merits - which was none.

    I don't support the HRCs in Canada either, but Ezra is a longtime supporter of the Conservative Party of Canada - our equivalent of the Republicans. He has a long history of calling for the government to censor speech when that speech happens to be against Israel and its policies. He is currently engaged in a SLAPP suit against a former employee for a letter-to-the-editor of a local Alberta newspaper.

    Levant has never been forthright in explain how a tribunal with minimal costs somehow ended up costing him $100 000 CAD (allegedly). He has never explained to people who donate exactly where that money went and how much was raised.

    Levant, quite simply, is a liar who loves to play the perpetual victim. The whole Muhammed Cartoon stunt was not some strike for free expression (since no one was trying to force him not to publish them) but a stunt to try to drum up support for his failing magazine (which, despite getting millions in Federal government subsidies, went out of business anyway). He is also the purveyor of a conspiracy theory that says the Canadian Jewish Congress created the Canadian Nazi Party back in the 60s (something he has never provide proof for).

    And perhaps next time the editors at Reason can dig and find out why Ezra was fired from his gig at the Calgary Herald: he was so enthralled in his anti-Muslim zeal that when a tragic accident killed a 2 year old girl in the city, he went off on the driver for having a "hijab" and attacked the entire Muslim community over imagined exceptions to health and safety regulations. Well those exceptions never exited and the driver was a Ukranian wearing a head scarf.

    So while his telling of the story seems heroic (at least in his telling), the truth of this weaselly little man is far from it. He is the worst kind of right-wing fascist we have.

    Ezra Levant is no friend of liberty, he is a self-serving hypocrite who is trying to babmoozle you. He has no problem using the force of the state to silence speech he doesn't like.

    Don't get fooled by this fascist charlatan.

  • Homple||

    Specifically, what speech is he trying to silence, eh?

  • ||

    Ezra Levant. My new personal hero.

    I second that. I'm putting his website at the top of my
    daily visit sites. Ezra, if you're reading this blog.
    Thank you so much for your strength.
    -Tim

  • Mike||

    For the record, Levant wasn't "charged by the government" for anything. A citizen made a complaint, the HRC investigated and dismissed the complaint. Its closer to a civil law tribunal than a criminal one.

    Again, the HRC is a bad idea and I emphatically do not support it, but it is not nearly as draconian as people like Werner and Levant make it out to be.

    Again, self-promoting and professional victim Ezra took advantage and stretched it out in order to get some publicity. Same reason he published the cartoons in the first place.

    Its all about "free speech" when Ezra and his neo-Nazi want to attack folks but he is suddenly all for silencing opposition when it comes to people voicing their opinion of him or of the policies of the State of Israel.

  • Werner Patels||

    Free Canada! How can we invade a country like Iraq to free its people but just sit and watch our close ally sink into the abyss of oppression?

    Please! I've been waiting for ages for our American brothers and sisters to come and help us. Despite the economic and other problems our American relatives are going through right now, Canadians would be better off being run and managed by Washington, instead of Ottawa.

  • Mike||

    Please! I've been waiting for ages for our American brothers and sisters to come and help us. Despite the economic and other problems our American relatives are going through right now, Canadians would be better off being run and managed by Washington, instead of Ottawa.

    Yes, because Obama is doing such a great job ....

  • Werner Patels||

    Still better than our so-called "conservative" prime minister, who not too long ago demonized all libertarians and anyone else who supports small government and low taxation. Obama, at least, is handing out real tax cuts to the middle class. In Canada, the middle class has been wiped out by the tax burden (which was actually increased under this "conservative" government).

  • Paul||

    Mike, some links would be nice. Or are you suggesting that Levant lied about the fact that the AHRCC can search your home and sieze documents without a warrant?

  • ||

    I welcome our new Canadian brothers and sisters to the North American Union. So, do we keep the maple leaf or just add thirteen stars? No, better make it twelve--Quebec should become its own country, ruled by King William Shatner.

  • ||

    Those tax cuts, according to an article I read over the weekend, will result in higher taxes at year's end, due to new tax tables.

  • the innominate one||

    Ezra Levant - good on you

    who's better than Ezra? no one.

  • jtuf||

    Ezra Levant, words fail me, so all I'll say is Thank You, Thank You 100,000 times.

  • ||

    Still better than our so-called "conservative" prime minister, who not too long ago demonized all libertarians and anyone else who supports small government and low taxation. Obama, at least, is handing out real tax cuts to the middle class.

    It's not about taxation -- it's about spending. Don't want to raise taxes to give everyone the goodies they want for free? Just print up the difference and hand it out. That's what both "conservative" and "liberal" governments have been doing for the last several decades.

    Chronic budget deficits paid for by printing new money cause the hidden, regressive tax we call inflation, which is theft of savings. When you include inflation, Obama is not handing out "real" tax cuts to anyone. But he (like GWB before him) is handing out TRILLIONS to his big banker buddies like Geithner and Paulsen.

    Follow the money.

    And forget about taxes -- they're a distraction. The real issues are spending, borrowing and money printing.

  • Jaydub||

    Ezra, from one Canadian to another, thank you.

    You have proven that at least one person left with the will to stand up for your beliefs. That's better than voting with our feet (and tax dollars), like many, including myself, did.

  • ||

    Hey Mike,

    Blow it out your ass. Levant had the courage to stand up against intimidation, and in the process he defended your right to make a complete asshole of yourself by heckling him.

    -jcr

  • ||

    A citizen made a complaint, the HRC investigated and dismissed the complaint.

    Why didn't the HRC dismiss it on its face? Are they completely devoid of common sense?

    -jcr

  • ||

    Again, self-promoting and professional victim Ezra took advantage and stretched it out in order to get some publicity.

    I'm curious, Mike. How does the defendant stretch out a case, other than by defending himself?

  • Paul||

    Mike,

    For the second time, ignoring the very scare assertions you make about how a small, ineffectual government agency with no power whatsoever looked at the complaint, and dropped it... do you have any links to anything backing up your assertions?

  • Paul||

    RC,

    The only way I can think someone who ostensibly supports the actions of the AHRCC could suggest 'stretching out' the case would be by the lack of cooperation that Levant clearly exhibited...to his credit, of course.

  • ||

    Ezra filmed his forced appearance in front of one of the HRC's commissioners and has much of it posted on youtube.

    www.youtube.com/user/EzraILevant

    In one, he is telling the commissar that he didn't have to answer to the government, because of his inalienable rights. Nice.

    Mark Steyn also ran afoul of the HRC's and he also basically told them to stick it in their government asses. Is that redundant?

  • ||

    Mind blowing. Utterly mind blowing.

  • ||

    Hey Mike,

    Blow it out your ass. Levant had the courage to stand up against intimidation, and in the process he defended your right to make a complete asshole of yourself by heckling him.

    -jcr


    Nicely put!

  • Tim Cavanaugh||

    Interesting comments, Mike. The video of Levant and the AHRCC functionary (to which this article is really a coda as much as anything else) suggests that Levant may not be your first choice of people to hang out with drinking Rob Roys with and discussing the future of the Middle East. I don't think he would be mine. (Though maybe if we subbed Canadian whiskey for Scotch ... in which case I think the resulting cocktail should be named the "Montcalm.")

    However, it doesn't matter whether he's a hero or a friend of liberty. In fact, if he were exactly the self-serving, bamboozling hypocrite you say he is, I think this would actually increase the value of his performance. It's hard to imagine a better argued case against the existence of this Commission, a more forceful definition of freedom of conscience, or a better delineation of why the demand for an apology is so offensive than Levant's on-camera rant (though I can imagine better sound quality on the video).

    I really think I would have been reduced to shouting "Fuck You, fuck you," like Al "Grandpa Munster" Lewis two minutes into the interview. I'm glad somebody got to make the case as well as he did. In fact, I'd be happy to see this case made even by one of the "fascist Muslim radical Arab fools" Levant denounces every few minutes.

  • EscapedWestOfTheBigMuddy||

    [the HRC] is not nearly as draconian as people like Werner and Levant make it out to be



    compared to

    Lund v. Boissoin, a case in which a Christian pastor was given a lifetime ban prohibiting him from criticizing gay marriage



    At least one of these statements is not true.

  • ||

    I am from Alberta (Levant's province) and can confirm the story about the minister who has a perpetual gag order. He wrote an opinion in a local newspaper against gay marriage, and now cannot even privately communicate his beliefs about the subject.

    In the past Levant has been a pretty partisan conservative, but now he seems to be leaning more and more toward libertarianism. Just look at the Western Standard website now. It is decidedly libertarian. It's almost like Canada's version of reason:

    http://westernstandard.ca/website/index.php

  • Mike||

    Why do I have to share the same name with this other idiot?

  • Werner Patels||

    Malto: OK, so it's about spending. Then how about the fact that under our "conervative" prime minister Big Government expanded much faster and much further than under any previous - left-wing! -- government? Add to this the other fact that the average Canadian household faces a tax burden of 45%!! Yes, in Canada, families pay more to the taxman than to the landlord or grocer -- a gross violation of human rights when a family's ability to afford the basic necessities of life (food, clothing, shelter) is jeopardized by the tax burden. Taxes are the number-one expense item for any Canadian family these days.

    Whatever tax system you have in the US, it's still a bargain compared to the Canadian tax burden.

  • Paul||

    Whatever tax system you have in the US, it's still a bargain compared to the Canadian tax burden.

    Give us time, we just took on several trillion in unfunded liabilities.

  • ResLifeSucksEverywhere||

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  • ||

    You are right to put conservative in scare quotes. The US version of your Conservatives, the Republicans, also busted the budget by a record amount, until the current administration blew that record out in only the first hundred days. Note that I refer to both Obama and Bush as handing out trillions of dollars to the politically well connected, while simultaneously gutting the traditional civil liberties enumerated in the Bill of Rights.

    By the way: The real spending, in the form of bank bailouts and guarantees, is not part of the US Federal Budget. The Federal Reserve, which by law cannot be audited by any organization but itself, can and does commit the US taxpayer, and everyone in the world who happens to own dollar denominated bonds, to paying for the failures of the big financial institutions. The "stimulus" package is "only" $787 billion. The Fed is printing up and handing out money by the TRILLIONS to favored institutions by buying their worthless assets (defaulted mortgage backed securities, derivatives, etc.) at full face value. None of this spending by the Federal Reserve, which must be paid for by US taxpayers and US and foreign bond and dollar holders, is voted on or even audited by Congress or any elected representative of the people.

    It it truly ironic that the self-styled "liberals" and "conservatives" are supporting exploitation of the poor and middle class, by the financial elite, all because it's done in the name of either "welfare" or "national security".

  • ||

    Either Sowahardy is correct, in which case Levant goes to Hell, or Levant is correct, in which case Sowahardy goes to Hell.

    You decide.

  • ||

    I'm ashamed that the Conservative Party of Canada has not done more to rid this country of these dangerous star chambers. Where are you Stephen Harper? Lead.

  • ||

    You know, I thought you were being sensible until you dropped the word "maddrasah" into your article. Madrassah is the arabic word for school. Yes, SCHOOL! The place you go to learn. It isn't any specific type of school, just simply, a school! You, as well as many other conservative journalists love using it as a fear-mongering technique that relies on peoples' ignorance. You are just as bad as the religious nuts who also blend the truth to fit their agenda. Quite a shame, I'm a liberal and was enjoying your artcle until you started using such low-tactics to illustrate your point.

  • ||

    Why do I have to share the same name with this other idiot?

    That's how it goes when you have one of the top ten most popular names in the English language.

    Come to think of it, I seem to recall that Mike and John are the top two.

    -jcr

  • ||

    What Mr. Levant left out was that the cartoons were a provocation by the "Danish" editor, Flemming Rose, a Ukrainian Jew who commissioned the contest after visiting his friend the notorious Jewish racist, Daniel Pipes. The whole episode was trumped up. The story had no legs until, months later, newspapers republished the cartoons in several European papers in concert. The were mostly Jewish owned or edited. It was a deliberate zionist provocation. These hate laws are aimed at any criticism of Israel or the oh-so-sacred holocaust. Is it any surprise that a zionist would beat the rap?

  • Homple||

    Yeah, European newspapers are mostly Jewish owned and edited. You can read all about it in Mein Kampf and The Protocols of the Elders of Zion.

    Feck off, Achmed.

  • Tim Cavanaugh||

    Madrassah is the arabic word for school. Yes, SCHOOL!

    That would be interesting* if they spoke Arabic in Pakistan. Soharwardy's own site makes it clear that he was studying dick and more dicks, not dick and jane: "Imam Soharwardy received his early Islamic education from his father, teacher and Murshad (spiritual guide) in the traditional Islamic Madrasah at Bughdadi Masjid, Martin Road, Karachi, Pakistan. Later, he graduated from Dar-ul-Aloom Soharwardia, Karachi. Mr. Soharwardy also earned Bachelor of Arts degree in Islamic Studies from University of Karachi."

    * Actually even then it wouldn't be interesting. My infidel in-laws are native speakers of Arabic, with plenty of kids in the family, and nobody ever, ever says "madrasah" when they're talking about a real school.

  • Francis||

    By trying to depict the HRC as a benign, near-powerless kind of government office, one plays exactly the kind of role that is expected of Canadian sheep (sorry: citizens): to consider the government as a good-parent kind of thing.

    The thing is, and Mike that is where you fail, the HRC should not even exist if it can judge, on behalf of the State, what kind of speech is acceptable or not. Whether Levant tried to censor others or not is irrelevant: if you wait for virtuous, consistently moral people to make the news and bring to the forefront the polite harassment that modern governments use as a front to its police-state inclination, you will die still waiting for your casket-permit and licensed approval of your eulogy.

  • ||

    So, Ezra's problem is that the tribunals tried to judge in accordance with legislation he's apposed to. What he's really calling for is activist judges to reverse duly enacted legislation. But that can't be right....

  • CMAR II||

    "So, Ezra's problem is that the tribunals tried to judge in accordance with legislation he's apposed to. What he's really calling for is activist judges to reverse duly enacted legislation. But that can't be right...."

    Yes, you are wrong in your understanding.

    Actually it's about bureaucrats re-interpreting legislation to control freedom of speech. Justice will not be complete until the HRC is forced to pay for Levant's legal expenses as well as his lost time. Also, it the HRC's directives must (at the least) be more strictly defined.

  • ||

    DON'T STOP NOW

    Crush the "human rights" tribunals while you have your foot on their throat!

    Track down the other people that they have railroaded and make an example of them until the HRC apologizes publicly

    Post pictures and addresses of the HRCs "investigators" so that the public can tell them what they think of them.

    The website: "Canada Kicks Ass" is full of fascists who support the "human rights" tribunals. If you disagree with them they ban you from the site.

    All Canadians who believe in free speach should go there and explain to them that their site should really be called: "Canada $ucks Dick"!!!

  • ||

    Is there still time for me to convert to Islam and start suing people on the taxpayer's dime? Or did Levant ruin it for everybody?

  • ||

    Cheers for Ezra. Every day in a hundred ways in millions of situations in the US and in Canada people suppress expressing their own positions - however well evidenced, logical or true - because they are afraid of one or another politically correct hassle. Glad to see someone stand up to it. Political correctness is just another expression of the Orwellian totalitarian impulse. It is an attempt to control the outcome of the argument by dumbing down the language and constraining the thoughts that can be expressed. It must be met with ridicule, scorn, contempt and most importantly resistance.

  • Eowyn||

    Mike May 4 1:30: "Again, the HRC is a bad idea and I emphatically do not support it, but it is not nearly as draconian as people like Werner and Levant make it out to be."

    No. It's worse. And it doesn't matter how anyone "makes it out." Any judicial body that allows complainants to get off scot-free and burden the defendant with such punitive court costs REGARDLESS of outcome (and Canadian HRCs have a virtually 100-percent conviction rate) is an abomination of justice.

    Secondly, free speech IS at risk of assaults on it like the ones endured by Ezra Levant and Maclean's/Mark Steyn by allowing this not-even-official (but very, very powerful) organization the authority to force people to self-censor.

    Incitement to violence must be proved. Falsely yelling "fire" in a crowded theater is incitement. Insulting someone is not.

    The HRCs must be stripped of their ability to censor speech, if not disbanded altogether.

    -- Proud contributor to Ezra's defense

  • ||

    But in the court of public opinion he had self-detonated.

    The Canadian Commission Against People Kicking Other People in the Nuts with Steel Toed Boots (CCAPKOTNSTB) will be investigating Mr. Levant for this statement. It may take more than the Internet to save him this time!

  • ||

    Wow thats fucked up. There should be absolute freedom of the press. I'm not one of those conservative douchebags who thinks Amurica (thats how they say it) is the best country in the world but that kind of censorship would never fly in the states. HRCs sound like HUAC to me.

  • ||

    Ezra,

    I am so happy to hear about this fight! I experienced something similar (without national media attention, however), and free speech didn't prevail.

    Congratulations and it truly is a relief to see free speech protected.

  • ||

    WTG Ezra (And your publisher/magazine) It takes alot of balls to stand up to PC Fascists; they go after EVERYTHING. Money, Job, ect; They count on people being scared of losing thier livelihoods... But all it takes is a couple of people to stand up, and say "Screw this" and call thier bluffs...! And to all sociopaths who think that the HRC is a good thing: I hope one day u find yourselves b4 such a panel!

  • ||

    Check out the Youtube videos of his, he begs them to convict him so he can take the fight to the Supreme court.
    Some of Ezra's interviews with he Canadian media after publishing the cartoons were classics.

    http://www.cbc.ca/thecurrent/media/200602/20060215thecurrent_sec3.ram

    http://www.cbc.ca/clips/ram-newsworld/levant_ezra060213.ram

    And Mike is full of crap, he's made several things up and wildly exaggerated others.

  • ||

    Edgar,why did the imans add the three other cartoons?
    And why were they by far the most offensive?

    Seems the controversy was staged,but it was staged by the imans who by their actions are partly responsible for the deaths of over a hundred people.
    And guilty of insulting Mohamed, if indeed making offensive images offends him.

    The only reason for the three additional and most offensive cartoons was to stir up trouble.
    Ezra published the story of that.

  • ||

    Speaking of reverend Boissoin, Ezra published the exact same article that got the reverend into trouble, but wasn't charged. Several other people did as well, to prove a point.
    They weren't charged either.
    How can one person say something and another deliberately say exactly the same thing, yet only one person gets charged under the kangaroo courts?

  • ||

    "A citizen made a complaint, the HRC investigated and dismissed the complaint".

    Mike leaves out the part where the accuser is a Muslim who made his complaint on the basis of the Koran and got a government organ to pursue essentially a fatwa against a Canadian citizen, a Jew as it happens.

    Unlike the police who were more sensible and realized that we do not enforce sharia law in Canada, the Human Rights Wrecking Commission took 3 years! to "investigate" and dismiss the charges and only after Levant had refused the "Shake down" (title of his new book) of the suggested apology and money paid to the aggrieved imam. The legal costs meter was running for that entire time for Levant who was not reimbursed when found not guilty while the state pursued the fatwah at no cost to the imam with an estimated half a million taxpayer dollars. As Levant said, "the process is the punishment" with possible additional punishment added on if found guilty. This is why most accused knuckle under.

    Mike also omits the fact that not a single Christian has had a complaint upheld by the commissions in Canada whose pet groups are minorities. There is no equality under the law. Steyn was subjected to triple jeopardy, the same complaint shopped to three of the 14 such commissions (federal and provincial).

    Truth is not a defense. Only the victim's hurt feelings count. One could go on and on, but read Levant's book Shake Down. Mike is just mad that a conservative is being given deserved credit for defending free speech and exposing the leftists promoting censorship.

    Mike's not believable for a moment saying he doesn't approve of the Commissions because if that were true, he would be grateful to Levant regardless of his personal characteristics or political persuasion. Leftists always give themselves away by their tendency to trash people rather than their arguments.

  • jg6||

    Mike maundered: "Again, the HRC is a bad idea and I emphatically do not support it, but it is not nearly as draconian as people like Werner and Levant make it out to be."

    I dunno, Mike, telling a preacher that he can't be critical of gay marriage, even in PRIVATE EMAILS, seems to fit "draconian" in my book.

  • jg6||

    Lawrence wrote: "You know, I thought you were being sensible until you dropped the word "maddrasah" into your article. Madrassah is the arabic word for school. Yes, SCHOOL! The place you go to learn. It isn't any specific type of school, just simply, a school!"

    Many words have a common meaning which goes beyond (or counter to) the original meaning (such as the word "Propaganda," which means "spreading truth"). To throw out an entire article because one word doesn't fit your sense of accuracy seems to be a little overboard.

  • ||

    This is fascinating. On a libertarian forum, we have wannabe fascists trying to discredit a fight for basic rights.

    I'll spell it out very carefully. All and any of the rights you have and take for granted were fought for by annoying people that you would not want to have for dinner.

    In fact you probably would insult or throw something at most. Some you would want to shoot. A couple you would.

    But without someone to stand before the imposing bulk of government and dangerous mobs, and put their coin, neck and anything else handy on the line, we would not have the rights we take for granted.

    So if you don't like Levant, don't like him. But be careful. If you don't like his cause of free expression because you don't like him, it says very uncomplimentary things about yourself. Very ugly things.

    I read that Mr Levant said something to the effect that he had to summon his 'inner asshole' to fight this thing.

    Take care. You could prove by your words that you are irredeemably evil.

    Derek

  • ||

    "JB | May 4, 2009, 1:09pm | #
    Canada sucks. Can't we send all the PC Nazis from the US up to that wasteland?"

    No thanks, we would send them back. Canada does tend to look like a bunch of sissies quite often I admit. Although there are MANY people here in Canada that are right ideology leaning people. Fox News would kill CNN ratings up here also if they could get a license to broadcast in the same cable package as CNN. You have to pay extra for another package to get Fox so they don't have as many viewers because of it.

  • ||

    Great work by people like Ezra show the extremist muslims must be contained.
    I hope the U.S.A. does not have to come to Canada to liberate us from those that would impose Sharia law upon us in our country.
    It would be better to send those inflammatory extremists to an island they cannot get off!

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  • www.ipod.com||

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  • ||

    Is it still permissible to say "eat shit Canadian PC censors'? If not, never mind.

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  • LifeStrategies||

    "group of Danish imams went on a world tour to drum up Muslim anger against Denmark. The imams brought three additional cartoons along with the original dozen. Those three additions, which hadn’t been published in Denmark or anywhere else, were grotesque, including one showing Muhammad having sex with a dog. They were the imams’ own handiwork,"

    Seems these Danish imams need to be hauled before the AHRCC, and have fatwa's issued against them...

    Yet criticism of such irreligious muslems doesn't happen. Is their one law for such hypocritical Muslem and one for the rest of the world?

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