"I state to you that I published it without reservation; I published it in the most unreasonable manner...Whatever offends you, I reserve the right to publish it for whatever offensive reason I want."
-- Ezra Levant
If you are an American, then you no doubt exercise your patriotic right of paying absolutely no attention to Canada whatsoever. I've heard of Canadians asking what Americans think of Canada, and I think they truly don't believe the correct answer, which is: "We don't. No really, we never think of you at all."
However, there is some reason, aside from Stanley Park, to notice Canada, as I've mentioned before: They are playing footsie with Islam, Sharia law, and politically correct assaults on freedom of speech in ways we should find very disturbing. If it can happen to them, can it happen to us?
Over the last couple of years there have been a couple of high-profile legal actions that touch on this, both of which have now been resolved, so I'm going to give them some coverage, starting with Ezra Levant.
Remember the Muslim cartoon blowup a couple of years ago? The cartoons were condemned by many Muslims for providing representations of Muhammad, an act considered taboo by the religion. There were riots by followers of the peaceful religion, and most mainstream media was too cowardly to reprint the cartoons (viewable in part here), with much hand-wringing about how wrong it is to intentionally offend someone's religious beliefs.
A very few in the press were willing to stand up to the pressure, and one of them was Ezra Levant, who republished the cartoons. As a result Levant was pulled in front of the Alberta Human Rights and Citizenship Commission to defend himself for exercising free speech. He insisted that his
inquisition interview be videotaped, and he released the videos on YouTube. Here is perhaps one of the most significant videos ever posted on that site, showing someone standing up for his core values instead of trying to weasel out of the situation:
Shirley McGovern: In summary fashion, what was your intent and purpose of your article with the cartoon illustrations published on February 27, 2006?
Ezra Levant: Why is that a relevant question? ...Is it you'd like to get some background or does this determine anything? We published what we published. The words and the pictures speak for themselves. Are you saying that one answer is wrong and one answer is right? Is a certain answer contrary to law?
Levant: So if I were to say, hypothetically, that the purpose was to instill hatred and incite hatred and cause offense, are you saying that's an acceptable answer?
McGovern: I'd have to look at it in the context of all the information and determine if it was indeed.
Levant: I think you're playing silly [?] here -- I think you know that the answer here, that that answer would be illegal...My answer to your question is as follows: We published those cartoons for the intention and purpose of exercising our inalienable rights as free-born Albertans to publish whatever the hell we want no matter what the hell you think. I've probably given 200 interviews with people other than the state where I give a very thoughtful and nuanced expression of my intent. But the only thing I have to say to the government about why I published it is because it's my bloody right to do so; and it's my right to do so for reasonable intentions and it's my right to do so for extremely unreasonable purposes. I refuse to concede to you that what my political thoughts in my mind are or in my heart are will determine whether or not an artifact is legal or illegal. We published that magazine, it speaks for itself. The fact that you dare to ask a publisher in Canada in the name of the government, to ask a publisher in Canada what his political thoughts are, it's obvious you are hunting for a thought crime, and I am not going to answer you in a minimal way. I'm not going to say, "Please Master, I was most reasonable, let me off the hook," I published those cartoons to use the maximum freedom allowed. I state to you that I published it without reservation; I published it in the most unreasonable manner...Whatever offends you, I reserve the right to publish it for whatever offensive reason I want.
You can find the complete set of videos of that session here. I think every school child should be required to memorize the exchange.
Levant's charges were dismissed on August 5th of this year...you'd think that would be a victory, but not really so much. As he said in his blog response (emphasis mine):
Is this a victory? I suppose, in a narrow technical sense, it is. I’m off the hook now for both of the HRC complaints. That’s two legal battles done – though I’m still up to my eyeballs fighting defamation suits and other legal actions that the human rights industry piled on top of these complaints.
But I’ve read the dismissal letter three times now, and each time it makes me more angry. Because I haven’t been given my freedom of the press. I’ve simply had the government censor approve what I said. That’s a completely different thing.