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Shakedown: How Our Government is Undermining Democracy in the Name of Human Rights [Hardcover]

Ezra Levant
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (39 customer reviews)

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Book Description

March 24 2009
Winner of the Writer's Trust of Canada / Samara's - Best Canadian Political Book of the Last 25 Years

Part memoir, part investigative journalism, this is a shocking and controversial look at the corruption of Canada’s human rights commissions.

“On January 11, 2008, I was summoned to a 90-minute government interrogation. My crime? As the publisher of Western Standard magazine, I had reprinted the Danish cartoons of Mohammed to illustrate a news story. I was charged with the offence of “discrimination,” and made to appear before Alberta’s “human rights commission” for questioning. As crazy as it sounds, I became the only person in the world to face legal sanction for printing those cartoons.”

As a result of this highly publicized event, Ezra Levant began investigating other instances in which innocent people have had their freedoms compromised by bureaucrats presuming to protect Canadians’ human rights. He discovered some disturbing and even bizarre cases, such as the tribunal ruling that an employee at a McDonald’ s restaurant in Vancouver did not have to wash her hands at work. And the human rights complaint filed by a Calgary hair stylist against the women at a salon school who called him a “loser.” In another case that seemed stranger than fiction, an emotionally unstable transvestite fought for — and won — the right to counsel female rape victims, despite the anguished pleas of those same traumatized victims. Human rights commissions now monitor political opinions, fine people for expressing politically incorrect viewpoints, censor websites, and even ban people, permanently, from saying certain things.

The book is a result of Levant’s ordeal and the research it inspired. It shows how our concept of human rights has morphed into something dangerous and drastically different from its original meaning. Shakedown is a convincing plea to Canadians to reclaim their basic liberties.

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Quill & Quire

At a time when Canada’s police and CSIS are implicated in the arrest, rendition, and torture in foreign prisons of Muslim Canadians, while the current Prime Minister refuses to intervene on their behalf, there are serious questions to be asked about the violation of human rights in Canada. Ezra Levant, the neo-liberal publisher of the defunct Western Standard magazine, begs to differ. Readers may remember that Levant courted headlines in the midst of a heated international controversy by publishing offensive cartoons of Muhammad, and when there was a request for an apology via Alberta’s Human Rights Commission, he yowled about interrogations, Big Brother, Orwell, star chambers, and the loss of free speech. Despite considerable evidence that prejudice continues to thrive in Canada (consider the firebombing of Jewish institutions in Montreal), Levant argues that Canada’s Human Rights Commission is “obsolete.” His basic premise is that the battles against discrimination in Canada have been won, and “the warriors can go home and enjoy themselves.” He claims that, desperate to remain relevant, the HRC has begun to manufacture human rights cases and has itself become a threat to free speech. Levant is correct that we need intelligent books to examine the role of the HRC in dealing with the tension between free speech and respect for the dignity of individuals and cultural groups. This is not one of those books. Levant’s argument amounts to a series of one-sided anecdotes, each of which reveals more about Levant’s prejudices than it does about the HRC. For instance, after 9/11, an anonymous co-worker at a Vancouver tech company accused Ghassan Asad of being a terrorist. After an intensive RCMP investigation, Asad was found to be innocent. He never learned who had so misjudged him, subjected him to a frightening ordeal, and permanently tarnished his reputation. The co-worker never apologized, and after two years of working in these strained conditions, with no effort by his employer to resolve the issue, Asad’s work suffered and he was fired. He filed a complaint with the HRC, which ruled in his favour. Instead of sympathizing with Asad, Levant accuses him of abusing the system and adds to the pall of suspicion: “It might well be” (my emphasis) that he was innocent, but if he was “why did the RCMP feel it necessary to be so thorough?”  This is just one among many instances where Levant turns against the victims of discrimination, which suggests these battles are not quite won yet, no matter what he claims.


"I was at a low moment, and beginning to fear that our adversarial culture was dying and the open society was losing its will to resist, when Ezra Levant showed that every citizen has the birthright of a little spark, and a grown-up duty to kindle that spark into a flame. Let the bureaucrats do their worst: the tongue and the word are chainless and nothing is sacred except this freedom above all."
— Christopher Hitchens, author of God is Not Great

“If we're not careful, if we force the Ezras in this country to shut up, our freedom of speech could be next.”
— Rick Mercer, in a “rant” from the Rick Mercer Report

“We are not yet three months into 2009, but Ezra may well have written the most important public affairs book this year.”
The National Post

“I read Shakedown and I am awed at Levant's persistence and powers of endurance.”
— Rex Murphy, in the Globe & Mail

“Why is Ezra Levant the flavour of the month? Dare I say because he deserves to be?”
Metro Vancouver

“…eloquent and powerful…”
London Free Press

“…puts everything on the line in the way the best Canadian journalists always did.”
Ottawa Citizen

“Let me put in a plug for Levant’s new book, Shakedown, which lays out, in example after example, how government-appointed human rights bodies warped the noble mission for which they were created.”
The Halifax Chronicle Herald

“...By the end of Levant’s book, readers will be left wondering whether it is enough to prune back the commissions, or, as he prefers, to weed them out altogether.”

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Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
4.6 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars 1984 in 2009 May 11 2009
By D Glover TOP 500 REVIEWER
Ezra Levant has sounded the alarm on the most serious and potentially disastrous issue in Canadian politics today - the regression and repression of the basic and natural freedom to think and say what we jolly-well please. Ezra blows the whistle on the Canadian thought police, arguing the federal and provincial/territorial "human rights" commissions have grossly overstepped their well-intentioned original purpose.

Along with telling his own horror story of being dragged through Alberta's opinion-inquisition for 3+ years, Levant documents numerous cases where radical leftist or Islamic zealots as well as opportunists looking for an easy buck, have used these "kangaroo courts" to punish law-abiding Canadian citizens for their political or religious views and corporations for their business decisions. Levant makes a convincing and water-tight argument that these unelected, unaccountable, secretive, underhanded, unscrupulous, grossly-powerful, usually untrained, and tax-payer funded bureaucratic thought police have become the vehicle of choice of radical groups or individuals looking to advance their own pet agendas and take out anyone whose thoughts or opinions might stand against them. If we don't believe in the freedom of thought, speech and conviction for people that offend us or that we disagree with, then we don't really believe in those fundamental freedoms at all.

This book is the most important book Canadians can read right now about their government.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A principled defense of freedom July 6 2009
In Shakedown, Ezra Levant exposes the misdeeds of so-called Human Rights Commissions across Canada. Part of the book is devoted to procedure: how HRCs don't follow the usual safeguards found in real courts and trample on their targets' rights. More importantly, Levant describes the fundamentally illegitimate role that HRCs play and their corrosive effect on society. The focus is on censorship, but various other examples are discussed as well.

The main strength of the book is its firm grounding in clear and consistent principles. Far from being the author's personal vendetta or political screed, Shakedown argues against the HRCs by showing how they violate the Canadian constitution and the Charter of rights and freedoms, in letter and spirit. This rare combination of intellectual honesty, moral clarity, and fact-based research makes for a compelling case.

Stylistically, the text is clear, concise and very accessible to us non-lawyers: there are no judicial technicalities in here. Also, some of the wackier cases discussed add entertainment value. The exposition builds up to an exciting conclusion in the last chapter (really, I thought it was riveting).

All in all, Shakedown is an excellent, thought-provoking book that cannot leave its readers indifferent. It is highly recommended to anyone who values freedom and genuine human rights.


Dans son livre Shakedown, Ezra Levant dénonce les méfaits des soi-disantes Commissions des Droits de la Personne au Canada. Une partie de l'ouvrage montre comment les CDP ne suivent pas les procédures normales du système judiciaire et bafouent les droits des accusés.
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85 of 93 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Mr Orwell, you were right. March 29 2009
Skill-testing question: what do you get when you blend an Alice-in-Wonderland fantasy with a Simpsons'' farce and an Orwellian dystopia. Why, the story of the Canadian Human Rights Commissions, of course. You didn''t know? Don''t feel too badly; for many years, none of us knew. The HRCs, established as institutions with the admirable tasks of attacking bigotry and discrimination, and of protecting the rights of the weak against the powerful, have themselves been hijacked for devious and scurrilous purposes by third-rate intellects and whacky activists. They are now instruments of language and thought control, weird social engineering and total disrespect for fundamental human rights and the rule of law. They make up rules of procedure on the fly and invent new "rights" in order to justify their agenda-driven decisions. All this happened under the radar screen, while Canada slept. It's all true. You can look it up.

Everything was going swimmingly until the Alberta HRC made the mistake of taking on the wrong person. They tried to railroad Ezra Levant. Levant is a Calgary-based political commentator/activist/polemicist. Being Jewish, he may have an inkling as to the real meaning of "discrimination" and "bigotry". A few years ago he was the editor of a small magazine that published the so-called 'Danish cartoons' mocking Muslim extremism. His was a news magazine; the cartoons were huge news so it seemed appropriate to him to do what he did. Foolish man. As a result, he was dragged before the local HRC and put through the wringer for nearly three years. However, Mr Levant is not a man to go quietly. He is pugnacious; his style is in-your-face, never-back-down, never-go-quietly, feisty. Not my idea of a drinking buddy, but just right for the circumstances.
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Most recent customer reviews
1.0 out of 5 stars Huge surprise!
The most surprising thing about the reviews here are that the people giving it 5 stars have managed to read an entire book as well as write a review... Read more
Published 5 days ago by Matthew
5.0 out of 5 stars Great read from the other side
Great read. Nice to read another view of the Kangaroo Courts that are the provincial Human rights courts. Read more
Published 29 days ago by Tech By Trade
5.0 out of 5 stars Required reading
This erudite and carefully written monograph should be required reading for every Canadian, particularly those who lean to the green left.
Published 3 months ago by Ron Adams
5.0 out of 5 stars Ezra is a national treasure.
Who is looking out for the freedom of thought and speech of all Canadians. Ezra is. Great to see someone stand up to the dictates of the Human Rights Commission, and who exposes... Read more
Published 10 months ago by B. L. Trivers
1.0 out of 5 stars Canada's very own nut.
Dissapointed in the amount of 4 and 5 stars for this book, but not surprised that the only people that would read it are like thinkers. Read more
Published 11 months ago by Dogman
5.0 out of 5 stars every Canadian should read
Canada needs help in understanding how important freedom of speech is, regardless if you believe in or what the other person says. Read more
Published 13 months ago by sandy
4.0 out of 5 stars Important issue
As a Canadian, I have to admit that I was not at all familiar with the human rights commissions in Canada until I picked up this book. Read more
Published on March 25 2012 by Karen Zhou
5.0 out of 5 stars Must Read
A frightening and entertaining review of a little know collection of autocratic tribunals that contravenes every noble tenant of western civilization. Read more
Published on June 26 2011 by William Tell
1.0 out of 5 stars shakedown:how our govenment is undermining democracy in the name of...
Before you even buy his book, please look up a Ezra levant's video. Watch 1min of it and then you will know what kind of rubbish comes out of his mouth or should I also add " his... Read more
Published on Sept. 11 2010 by dove
5.0 out of 5 stars We don't need the HRC's
If you're offended, take 'em to court on your dime, not mine. And what leftist, agenda driven troll wrote the Quill & Quire product review? The Human Rights Commissioner?
Published on July 26 2010 by Brian Blick
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