Two Years and $100,000 Later: Ezra Levant Complaint Dismissed by Human Rights Commission
By John Jalsevac
August 7, 2008 (LifeSiteNews.com) – After a drawn out legal battle spanning some two years, and $100,000 in legal fees later, the Alberta Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has dismissed the second of two complaints filed against Canadian publisher Ezra Levant and the now-defunct Western Standard magazine. The complaint, filed by the Edmonton Council of Muslim Communities (ECMC), alleged that Levant and the Western Standard were guilty of illegal “discrimination” for republishing the Danish cartoons of Mohammed in 2006.
Another similar complaint against Levant and the magazine, filed by a Muslim Imam, Syed Soharwardy, was dropped earlier this year at Soharwardy’s request.
In dismissing the complaint Pardeep Gundara, the Southern Director of the AHRC wrote, “Given the full context of the republication of the cartoons, the very strong language defining hatred and contempt in the case law, as well as a consideration of the importance of freedom of speech and the ‘admonition to balance’…there is no reasonable basis in the information for this complaint to proceed to a panel hearing.”
According to a press release from Levant, Fifteen government bureaucrats participated in the investigation, costing Alberta taxpayers more than $500,000 and leaving Levant and the magazine with $100,000 in legal bills.
“I was punished first, then acquitted later. It was a mockery of justice,” said Levant upon hearing that the complaint was being dismissed.
Yasmeen Nizam, a civil litigation lawyer in Edmonton and an ECMC director, told the National Post that the Muslim council is “certainly disappointed with the decision.”
“Our whole idea was to educate people,” she said. “We thought the cartoons did [expose Muslims to hatred], regardless of the context, because if you look at the broader context in a post-9/11 world, Muslims are at a higher risk of being discriminated against.”
In commentary on his blog and in an op-ed published in the National Post, Levant criticized the AHRC for taking so long to come to a decision, and expressed his belief that the complaint was dismissed only because, “I’m a pain in the neck to the HRCs….They wanted to avoid the PR disaster of a trial.”
Levant also complained that for the defendant in a human rights commission case, “the process is the punishment,” saying that his “victory” is a victory in name only. According to the rules of the Canadian Human Rights Commissions the complainant’s legal fees are covered by the state, whereas the defendant must cover his/her own legal fees.
“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.”
“The process I was put through was a punishment in itself – and a warning to any other journalists who would defy radical Islam.”
The lengthy Levant and Western Standard cases ultimately served as a rallying point for those who believe that Canada’s Human Rights Commissions are increasingly overstepping their mandate and violating fundamental freedoms, particularly freedom of speech and freedom of the press, in their eagerness to stamp out “offensive” speech in Canada.
Levant’s case was only one of numerous other similar cases brought before the Human Rights Commissions across the country in recent years. Another prominent case heard by the BC Tribunal in June involved popular opinion journalist Mark Steyn, who was accused by Mohamed Elmasry, an imam and president of the Canadian Islamic Congress and Naiyer Habib of “hate speech” for publishing an excerpt from his book “America Alone” in Maclean’s magazine. Steyn is still awaiting a decision from the BC Tribunal.
Besides the complaints filed by Muslims against popular magazines and journalists, the other major class of human rights complaints have been filed by homosexualist activists against Christians who have expressed their disagreement with homosexual conduct. In one recent case, Alberta pastor Steve Boissoin was convicted last year of speech likely to expose homosexuals to “hatred and contempt” after he published a letter to the editor in the Red Deer Advocate expressing his religious objections to the homosexualist agenda.
In June the Alberta Human Rights Tribunal issued a remedy ruling that ordered Boissoin to pay $7,000 in fines, to never speak disparagingly about homosexuality or about the complainant Darren Lund, and to apologize to Lund in a letter to be published in the Red Deer Advocate. Levant wrote today that in comparison to himself and his well-publicized agitation against the human rights commissions, “[Boissoin] was quiet, so he’s roadkill.”
Others who have had complaints filed against them in the Canadian Human Rights Commissions for expressing their beliefs on homosexuality include the magazine Catholic Insight, the Christian Heritage Party of Canada (CHP) and its Leader Ron Gray, John Di Cecco, a Kamloops, BC city councilor, the Saskatoon Star Phoenix and Hugh Owens, Toronto printer Scott Brockie, Knights of Columbus of Port Coquitlam, BC, and Catholic Bishop Fred Henry.