Ezra Levant says that while he beat the fatwa, he still lost his freedom. That may be the understatement of the year.
It is ironic that President Bush is planning to ask China’s leadership (one of those diplomatic-but-futile gestures inspired by the State Department) for more freedom for the Chinese, even as Canada becomes the North American continent’s bastion of soviet-style speech control.
Mr. Levant describes the tribulation, trial, and aftermath of his nightmare at the hands of Canadian bureaucrats. It is squirmingly Kafkaesque:
Some 900 days after I became the only person in the Western world charged with the “offence” of republishing the Danish cartoons of Muhammad, the government has finally acquitted me of illegal “discrimination.” Taxpayers are out more than $500,000 for an investigation that involved fifteen bureaucrats at the Alberta Human Rights Commission. The legal cost to me and the now-defunct Western Standard magazine is $100,000.
In other words, Mr. Levant spent more than two years tied in a pretzel of uncertainty, a victim of the libel terrorism that is running amok in formerly boring Canada.
He compares his experience to what it might have been if Canada had not turned to the Chinese method of trial by fire:
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The case would have been thrown out long ago if I had been charged in a criminal court, instead of a human rights commission. That’s because accused criminals have the right to a speedy trial. Accused publishers at human rights commissions do not.
And if I had been a defendant in a civil court, the judge would now order the losing parties to pay my legal bills. Instead, the Edmonton Council of Muslim Communities won’t have to pay me a dime. Neither will Syed Soharwardy, the Calgary imam who abandoned his identical complaint against me this spring.
Both managed to hijack a secular government agency to prosecute their radical Islamic fatwa against me – the first blasphemy case in Canada in over 80 years. Their complaints were dismissed, but it is inaccurate to say that they lost: They got the government to rough me up for nearly three years, at no cost to them. The process I was put through was a punishment in itself – and a warning to any other journalists who would defy radical Islam.
However, Canada’s government is not secular. The Canadian government has not given its religion a name – after all, that would indeed violate its own premise about correct-speak, and correct-speak is the new liturgical language for the dance of the Church of We Tell You What You Must Say. Notice it’s not limited to what you may say out loud. There are also rules for what you have to say, just as there were in the Soviet Union (which also claimed not to have a state religion. The people knew otherwise):
Exactly two months before I was acquitted, another Albertan was sentenced by the HRC on the exact same charge: “discrimination” in a newspaper. Five years ago, Reverend Stephen Boissoin wrote a controversial column about gay rights. It passed all of Gundara’s home-made rules: It was in the context of a broader debate; it was followed by many opposing letters to the editor; it had a “purpose,” etc. But Rev. Boissoin was fined $7,000 and banned for life from giving sermons or even sending private e-mails that were “disparaging”. To top it off, he was ordered by the HRC to write a public renunciation of his faith. [my emphasis – D]
It’s obvious why I was acquitted and Boissoin was convicted. I’ve been a political pain in the neck for the HRC. Rev. Boissoin? He was quiet, so he’s road kill. But neither of us are free – we both have to have our views checked out by the government.
If neither man is free, then no citizen of Canada is free to speak up — as he or she will discover should they run athwart some bureaucrat who decides they don’t like what’s being said.
I haven’t read the pronouncement of the tribunal in the case of Mr. Levant. However, its decision against Reverend Boisson is astounding for its condescension and obvious bias. The tribunal of the Church of Canada has spoken and you’d better write its words on your heart.
From the decision on Reverend Boisson’s mortal sins:
Dr. Lund seeks the following remedies:
a. That Mr. Boissoin and the Concerned Christian Coalition Inc. be formally disallowed to publish discriminatory letters in newspapers by email, on the radio, in public speeches and on the internet in the future. Further, that they be prohibited from making disparaging remarks in the future against the complainant or any of the complainant’s witnesses relating to their involvement in the complaint.
b. That damages for pain and suffering be paid by the respondents to Dr. Lund in the amount of $5,000.00.
c. That an Order for damages for pain and suffering directly related to the retaliation that Dr. Lund has suffered be paid by the respondents to Dr. Lund in the amount of $5,000.00.
d. An Order for additional damages for pain and suffering be paid to Ms. Janelle Dodd in the amount of $2,500.00.
e. An Order that Mr. Boissoin and The Concerned Christian Coalition Inc. publish a summary of the ruling of the case in the editorial section of the Red Deer Advocate.
6. Mr. Boissoin argues the only appropriate remedy in the case is an Order requiring Mr. Boissoin “to refrain in the future from committing the same or similar contravention” pursuant to Section 32(1)(b)(ii) of the Act.
The Panel agrees with the submissions of Dr. Lund that the Panel is to use the principle of fairness in determining appropriate remedies:
It is important to keep in mind that the purposes of the Code are remedial, not punitive…[…] human rights legislation is aimed at ameliorating the effects of discrimination, rather than punishing the perpetrator.
The Panel agrees also with Dr. Lund’s submission that hate propaganda remedies should have a symbolic and educational value…:
Any remedy awarded by this, or any Tribunal, will inevitably serve a number of purposes: prevention and elimination of discriminatory practices is only one of the outcomes flowing from an Order issued as a consequence of these proceedings. There is also a significant symbolic value in the public denunciation of the actions that are the subject of this complaint. Similarly, there is the potential educative and ultimately larger preventative benefit that can be achieved by open discussion of the principles enunciated in this or any Tribunal decision.”
The Panel also agrees with the submissions of Mr. Boissoin when he states that this is not a criminal case. It would be inappropriate to punish Mr. Boissoin for his actions and I find that the purpose of the remedy in this case, is not to punish but rather to attempt as far as possible, to ameliorate the effects of the discrimination insofar as is possible and to denunciate [sic] the actions which were the subject of the complaint with a view to educate and hopefully prevent actions of this nature in future. [my emphasis — D]
Section 32 of the Act limits to a large degree the available redress that the Act provides in affording opportunities and privileges through awarding wages, lost income and expenses to the person or persons dealt with contrary to the Act and to placing the person dealt with contrary to the Act in the same position that they would have been in had it not been for the contravention of the Act. In this case, there is no specific individual who can be compensated as there is no direct victim who has come forward seeking redress by the contravention of the Act by Mr. Boissoin and The Concerned Christian Coalition Inc.
That is not to say, however, that some financial redress is inappropriate in this case. The Panel notes that the respondent alleges he does not have the actual wherewithal to pay a fine or costs, however, there was no evidence on that point and no information as to the financial circumstances of Mr. Boissoin were brought forward in his submissions.
The Panel has heard no submissions from The Concerned Christian Coalition Inc.
The Panel does find that Dr. Lund, although not a direct victim, did expend considerable time and energy and suffered ridicule and harassment as a result of his complaint. The Panel finds therefore that he is entitled to some compensation.
The Panel finds, and the Panel orders as follows:
a. That Mr. Boissoin and The Concerned Christian Coalition Inc. shall cease publishing in newspapers, by email, on the radio, in public speeches, or on the internet, in future, disparaging remarks about gays and homosexuals. Further, they shall not and are prohibited from making disparaging remarks in the future about Dr. Lund or Dr. Lund’s witnesses relating to their involvement in this complaint.
Further, all disparaging remarks versus homosexuals are directed to be removed from current web sites and publications of Mr. Boissoin and The Concerned Christian Coalition Inc.
b. That The Concerned Christian Coalition Inc. and Mr. Boissoin shall, in future, be restrained from committing the same or similar contraventions of the Act.
c. That Mr. Boissoin and The Concerned Christian Coalition Inc. provide Dr. Lund with a written apology for the article in the Red Deer Advocate which was the subject of this complaint.
d. That Mr. Boissoin and The Concerned Christian Coalition Inc. shall request the Red Deer Advocate publish a copy this Order in the Red Deer Advocate and that they request their written apology for the contravention of the Act be published in the Red Deer Advocate.
e. That Mr. Boissoin and The Concerned Christian Coalition Inc. shall pay to Dr. Lund an award for damages, jointly and severally, in the amount of $5,000.00.
f. That Ms. Dodd shall provide a list of expenses incurred as a result of her testimony at the hearing to the Panel Chair for review and such sum shall be paid to her for her actual expenses associated with this matter up to the maximum amount of $2,000.00 as directed by the Panel Chair upon receiving her list of expenses. Such amounts so ordered by the Panel Chair shall be paid jointly and severally by Mr. Boissoin and The Concerned Christian Coalition Inc.
No, the point of the tribunal is not to punish. Of course not. The point of this religious tribunal is to lead the stray sheep back to the fold of correct-speak and proper-think. It is one of those “this-hurts-me-more-than-it-hurts-you” moments.
Mr. Levant says of his ruling:
The 11-page government report into my activities is a breathtakingly arrogant document. In it, Pardeep Gundara, a low-level bureaucrat, assumes the role of editor-in-chief for the entire province of Alberta. He went through our magazine article and gave his own thoughts on the cartoons, and pronounced on our magazine’s decision to publish them. The government’s wannabe journalist makes a spelling error, he gets facts wrong and he’s obviously not good with deadlines. We’d never have hired him at our magazine. But the laugh is on us – he’s apparently our boss, and the boss of all journalists in Alberta.
In his report, Gundara presents as “fact” his personal opinion of the Muhammad cartoons. He says they’re “stereotypical, negative and offensive.” That’s one viewpoint. Others have a different view. Why should anyone care about Gundara’s personal opinion? Do I need permission from him – or anyone other than my conscience – before I publish things in the future? Is this column okay by him?
Gundara forgave me and the Western Standard our sins because, according to him, the offensiveness of the cartoons was “muted by the context of the accompanying article” and we ran letters both for and against the cartoons in our subsequent issue. He also acquitted us because “the cartoons were not simply stuck in the middle of the magazine with no purpose or related story.”
Let me translate: You’d better be “reasonable” in how you use your freedoms, or you won’t be allowed to keep them. You’d better not run political cartoons “simply stuck in the middle” of a magazine. You’d better have a “purpose” for being “negative” that is approved by bureaucrat, when he finally gets around to it three years later.
As Mr. Levant notes, this is “not a victory for freedom of the press” since the press is now subject to the
whims dictates of the government. As he says, Canadians have a right to a free press in spite of government, but he does not add that this right has now become theoretical.
Nor is his ordeal really over and done with:
Of course I’m glad to be done with this malicious prosecution – though my antagonists can still appeal my acquittal.
But two years ago, the HRC told me if I paid a few thousand dollars to my accusers and gave them a page in our magazine, I’d be set free. Most victims of the HRCs accept deals like that, and it’s certainly cheaper than a 900-day fight. But getting the approval of the HRC’s censor is morally no better than their shake-down attempt. Whether I have to pay off a radical imam or appease a meddling bureaucrat, it’s still an infringement on our Canadian liberties.
Mr. Levant, sir. Please reconsider your words and look at the reality: liberty in Canada, at least where speech is concerned, has been taken away. Your rights are in the hands of the Church of Correct-Speak and Proper-Thought.
All Canadians should remember that. After all, it is not the desire of their rulers to punish offenders. Not at all. Instead, by way of example, you must understand the error of your ways and publicly repent your sins.
The genius of this kind of soft control is that you cannnot hear silenced speech. Thus, there is no way to gauge what is not being said now because of these restraints. Somewhere, Stalin is applauding — silently, of course.
I hope our readers will go over carefully the language of this ruling. There is much to be learned from a careful reading of the decision. For example, can you infer from the wording that they wished someone had come forward seeking redress:
In this case, there is no specific individual who can be compensated as there is no direct victim who has come forward seeking redress by the contravention of the Act by Mr. Boissoin and The Concerned Christian Coalition Inc.
In other words, it is not the case that there weren’t ” direct victims”. Rather, what happened is that none of these weenies were willing to step forward and claim a share of the pot.
Do they wonder at the lack of response? Were Canadian heads averted from this naked display of inquisitorial power? Does the tribunal understand that?
Fortunately, none of our guilty neighbors to the north will be branded with a big “SO” on their forehead (for “SPEECH OFFENDER”). Such a restraint would be too…American.
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Hat Tip: TB