Friday, May 22, 2009
Ezra Shakes Up Ottawa
Publishd as a Letter to the Editor in the Renfrew Mercury on May 5
“On January 11, 2008, I was summoned to a ninety-minute government interrogation.” So opens the introduction of Ezra Levant’s new book “Shakedown, How Our Government is Undermining Democracy in the Name of Human Rights” which he spoke about at the Ottawa International Writers Festival last Saturday.
It was a rollicking hour and a half as he talked about his battle for freedom of speech. Pulling no punches, he used his passion and humour to demonstrate the importance of this fight and the folly of Canada’s official censors.
Canada’s official censors? What censors? The Canadian government doesn’t censor does it? Oh yes it does, says Ezra, and he backs it up.
Ezra Levant experienced first hand the chill of government censorship when he was the editor of The Western Standard. The magazine published an article about the Mohammed cartoon riots and illustrated it with the cartoons in question. For daring to publish the cartoons, Levant was forced to go through a 900 day investigation by the Alberta Human Rights Commission. Although he was eventually acquitted, the experience inspired him to find out more about the Human Rights Commissions and what he found horrified him.
In a take-no-prisoners style his book deals with some of the outrageous decisions that have been made by the various commissions. Like the one in B.C. where a Human Rights Tribunal decided that MacDonalds’ staff have a right not to wash their hands. Or the one where a man, who considered himself a woman, demanded the right to counsel rape victims. The Human Rights Tribunal ruled that denying him the right to council rape victims was discrimination. The rights of rape victims to be in environments where they feel comfortable and the right of the shelter to screen counsellors being, apparently, not all that important.
Levant shows how these are not just a few mistakes made by an otherwise good system, but that the abuses and injustices of the Human Rights Commissions are profound and are rooted deep in the very heart of the agency itself. Their erratic and arbitrary rulings. Their posting of racist material on the internet in an attempt to trap people. The lack of fair play and impartiality. The lack of proper standards of evidence. All of these, and more, should be deeply disturbing to anyone who holds that real justice is important.
This fight is about the freedom of all Canadians, and we should all be concerned. What happens when your priest or pastor gets in trouble for teaching the standards of your church on controversial issues? What about when a man wants to use the women’s restroom in your restaurant? What if you get in trouble for writing or saying something that your neighbour decides is offensive? What if you get into trouble for firing an employee who breaks your rules?
Unless we stand for our rights we will eventually find that they are being washed away from under our feet. Edmund Burke said “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing." Our freedoms will not stay unless we want them to, and unless Canadians who love freedom are willing to stand up to those who would seek to erode it.