This is a bad sign, but paradoxically also a hopeful one. The media has dropped the ball on this, but their very silence, along with the absence of outright defenses of HRC’s in the matters of Steyn and Levant, indicates that if and when these cases do break fully into public view, Canada’s human rights commissions could be in trouble. When silence is your only defense, you are vulnerable. This televised defense of both Steyn and Levant is a good sign. On the other hand, the huge set of comments below the transcript likely represent just the sort of fracas the Canadian media is hoping to avoid by suppressing this story.[End Update]
The original post written 1/16/08.
The Australian has an article out today, written by Janet Albrechtsen, who describes a moment in September when she was addressing the University of British Columbia, where she made the assertion that "multiculturalism and its partner in crime, moral relativism, were leading to the demise of Western values."
"But you must understand," implored a well-intentioned woman in the audience, "multiculturalism is Canada's gift to the world."
If Australia is set to follow Canada, then thanks, but no thanks. Call me ungrateful, but we should have returned the gift to Canada long ago. I say that as someone who has long adored Canada. Its politics may be as dripping wet as Vancouver, but the people are warm and funny, and there is something sweet about the US's insecure, slightly wimpy northern neighbour. Yet there comes a point when weakness morphs into a reckless death wish.
Ms. Albrechtsen is back in Canada now and she believes that point where weakness morphs into a death wish, has been reached as she tells the story of Ezra Levant, a conservative commentator that has been hauled in front of Alberta's Human Rights and Citizenship Commission.
The reason he was hauled before the commission?
He published the infamous Danish Mohammed cartoons two years ago in the Western Standard.
The head of Canada's Islamic Supreme Council, Syed Soharwardy, complained that Levant had incited hate against Muslims.
(Side note: Syed Soharwardy has a human rights complaint filed against him also....found here.
We were discriminated as women and were treated poorly, differently, negatively and adversely by the Directors and Officers of Al-Madinah Calgary Islamic Centre, Islam Supreme Council of Canada (ISCC), Muslim Against Terrorism (MAT), Al-Madinah Dar-Ul-Aloom Ltd and Al-Madinah Calgary Islamic Assembly. In this meeting we were treated diferently from men in the following manner:
Back to the Australian article:
The Jyllands-Posten Muhammad cartoons controversy began after twelve editorial cartoons, most of which depicted the Islamic prophet Muhammad, were published in the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten on 30 September 2005. The newspaper announced that this publication was an attempt to contribute to the debate regarding criticism of Islam and self-censorship.
Danish Muslim organizations, who objected to the depictions, responded by holding public protests attempting to raise awareness of Jyllands-Posten's publication. The controversy deepened when further examples of the cartoons were reprinted in newspapers in more than fifty other countries.(Source)
In 2004 Levant co-founded the Western Standard, a national magazine with an emphasis on Western Canada, political conservatism, and libertarianism.
January 2008, Levant was called before the Human Rights Commission and asked to defend his right to publish.
Levant's opening statement was a tour de force as far as punchy defences of free speech go. Apparently viewed almost 200,000 times, it is one of the most-watched clips on YouTube in recent times. It's also on his website, www.ezralevant.com, where he describes the chilling process: "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 ... 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."
It was, said Levant, the epitome of Hannah Arendt's warning against "the banality of evil".
Here is that video with the relevant 6 minutes of Levant's opening argument, via YouTube.
You can find multiple videos of this proceeding at Levant's website, including his closing argument.
Alan Borovoy, general counsel to the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, who helped create these commissions on the 1960's and 70's, wrote to the Calgary Herald, stating "during the years when my colleagues and I were labouring to create such commissions, we never imagined that they might ultimately be used against freedom of speech".
Constitutional Law of Canada from Constitutionallaw.net gives us the law, as written in Canada about Freedom of Expression:
Section 2(b) of the Charter states that "Everyone has the following fundamental freedoms: ... freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press and other media of communication." The section potentially could cover a wide range of action, from commercial expression to political expression; from journalistic privilege to hate speech to pornography. The jurisprudence of the Supreme Court (see links below) has largely been an attempt to carve out: first, the purpose of s. 2(b) (what values does it seek to protect, who should be entitled to its protection); and second, the scope of s. 2(b) (what is 'expression'?).
Freedom of expression is a cornerstone of a functioning democracy. Freedom of expression promotes certain societal values, as noted by Professor Emerson in 1963: "Maintenance of a system of free expression is necessary (1) as assuring individual self-fulfillment, (2) as a means of attaining the truth, (3) as a method of securing participation by the members of the society in social, including political, decision-making, and (4) as maintaining the balance between stability and change in society." Our constitutional commitment to free speech is predicated on the belief that a free society cannot function with coercive legal censorship in the hands of persons supporting one ideology who are motivated to use the power of the censor to suppress opposing viewpoints.
The Canadian approach to freedom of expression allows for a wide conception of "expression" within s. 2(b). The Supreme Court of Canada has stated that a wide and inclusionary approach to the interpretation of the Charter's free expression guarantee is to be preferred (see Ford v. Quebec, and Irwin Toy). Thus, in Irwin Toy, Chief Justice Dickson explained that "'expression' has both a content and a form, and the two can be inextricably connected. Activity is expressive if it attempts to convey meaning. That meaning is its content." Not only is there a freedom of expression, there is also a freedom to not express. As Justice Beetz said in National Bank of Canada v. R.C.U. [p. 377 text], "all freedoms guaranteed by s. 2 of the Charter necessarily imply reciprocal rights: ... freedom of expression includes the right to not express."
There are of course limits to free speech and free press guarantees, as the Canadian Supreme Court is quite ready to point out (see CBC v. A.G.N.B., below). For example, even though the press enjoys core constitutional rights of access and publication, they do not have protection for all operational means and methods the press may choose to adopt. The press does not, for example, enjoy immunity if they run a pedestrian down in pursuit of a new story under the guise of "freedom of the press". Nor is a violent attack on someone (however dramatic the attack may be) considered to be expression. Understanding freedom of expression requires not only understanding its place in the Canadian constitution, but also, understanding it within the context of society and society's competing values.
Freedom of expression and freedom of speech is not only being challenged, in the case of Ezra Levant, but award-winning author Mark Steyn has also been summoned to appear before two Canadian Human Rights Commissions on vague allegations of “subjecting Canadian Muslims to hatred and contempt” and being “flagrantly Islamophobic” after Maclean’s magazine published an excerpt from his book, America Alone.
You can read Mark Steyn's obvious contempt for these attempts to stifle his free speech for yourself on his website.
One notable quote is mentioned in The Australian article are:
"I don't want to get off the hook. I want to take the hook and stick it up the collective butt of these thought police."
That was also initiated by the Canadian Islamic Congress, who has tried previously and unsuccessfully to sue publications it disagrees with, including Canada's National Post.
Other examples of attacks upon freedon of speech and freedom of expression, include, but are not limited to;
The Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) sued Andrew Whitehead, an American activist, for $1.3 million for founding and maintaining the website Anti-CAIR-net.org, on which he lists CAIR as an Islamist organization with ties to terrorist groups. After CAIR refused Whitehead’s discovery requests, seemingly afraid of what internal documents the legal process it had initiated would reveal, the lawsuit was dismissed by the court with prejudice.
(Links to all relevant documents, filings and conclusion of this when it was dismissed with prejudice can be found here.
CAIR also sued Cass Ballenger for $2 million after the former U.S. Congressman said in a 2003 interview with the Charlotte Observer that the group was a “fundraising arm for Hezbollah” that he had reported as such to the FBI and CIA. The judge, U.S. District Judge Richard Leon, ruled that Ballenger’s statements were made in the scope of his public duties and were protected speech, another legal defeat for CAIR.
Daniel Pipes has put together a list of attempts to use our legal system to circumvent the right of free speech and freedom of expression, from 2004 to 2007, with continuous updates as determinations or new facts come to light.
All of the Mohammed Cartoons can be found at AINA.
Muslims were offended by those Mohammed Cartoons, but being offended does not negate our free speech laws, nor our freedom of expression laws. They have every right to be offended, just as we have every right to our free speech.
One right does not negate the other.
The Mohammed cartoons, were no more offensive to Muslims than Jesus cartoons are to Christians, such as the one that was published by a liberal publication of the University of Oregon, in response to their conservative publications decision to republish the Mohammed Cartoons.
More Jesus cartoons found here.
No more offensive than the Moses cartoons are to Jews, as shown below.
Other Moses Cartoons can be found here.
All of the above religious cartoons can be considered offensive to one religion or another, they may be tasteless and classless and any other adjective that you may wish to apply to them, but they do not encourage violence, they do not call for violent acts to be committed on other people, and tasteless and classless are not crimes under any law.
Free Speech Laws and Freedom of Expression Laws, were created to protect individual rights to express themselves freely witout fear of retribution.
As the original "The Australian" article was about the case of Ezra Levant, I will leave you with his words "Freedom of expression is only meaningful when it trumps other values, such as political sensibilities, or religious dogma, or personal sensitivities. Indeed, Western civilisation's progress in all realms, ranging from science to art, to religion, to feminism, to civil rights for racial minorities and gays, has come about from the free expression of ideas that necessarily offended some earlier order."