Ezra Levant "acquitted"

Matthew Hoy
By Matthew Hoy on August 6, 2008

Ezra Levant, former publisher of the ex-Western Standard magazine was acquitted on "discrimination" charges for having the audacity to publish the infamous Muhammed cartoons. He becomes the first person to ever be acquitted by one of these Canadian Human Rights Commissions, but he didn't win.

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.

That is not acceptable to me. I am not interested in Gundara’s views about the cartoons. I’m not interested in learning his personal rules of thumb for when I can or can’t express myself. This is Canada, not Saudi Arabia.

My dismissal is not a victory for freedom of the press. Because Alberta’s press is not free — it is now subject to the approval of the government. But Canadians have the right to a free press in spite of the government. We have the right to break every one of Gundara’s petty and subjective rules.

Levant has spent $100,000 in legal fees defending himself for exercising his freedom of speech -- his persecutors' legal fees were handled by the Canadian government. Levant has posted all the relevant documents at his Web site here. He's also still got $10,000 in legal fees to pay off, so if you're so-inclined, you can drop him a few bucks there.

For some entertainment, many moons ago I posted YouTube links to Levant's inquisition here.

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