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

Ezra Levant
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (37 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

4.7 out of 5 stars
4.7 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
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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37 of 41 people found the following review helpful
By Winston
I only thought a country like Iran, Cuba or Saudi Arabia prosecuted people for expressing their opinions. I was wrong. It's scary to think that in a 1st rate country like Canada, a great country, such courts exist. These government sanctioned courts/tribunals make it hard to express your own thoughts and Mr. Levant has embarked on a crusade to expose these Stalinist kangaroo courts and defeat them in the real court of public opinion. I think he has been successful. This is an extremely well done book. Greatly researched, written by a very passionate man who cares deeply about his country and has done so to protect it from these HR courts. Buy this book and let others read it too. Every single Canadian of all stripes must know what's going on and how their tax money is spent. I, for one, am glad that brave men like Mr. Levant have the guts to go through such fights. For their bravery, Canada will be a much better place and a safer place to live. 5/5
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21 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Mr. Levant's warning for Canadians April 14 2009
By BJSmith
Every totalitarian society has gone down the route that the Canadian Human Rights Commissions are taking us - unqualified political appointees or individuals with a special agenda who judge people according to their whims and political ideology. These "judges" follow no rule of law, precedent or evidence, are accountable to no-one, and impose arbitrary punishments including... incredibly, comically, tragically... orders to apologize and bans on speaking publicly on specific topics. No real judge can order this on even the most heinous criminal, but these kangaroo judges can impose such penalties on you if you have offended someone and they complain.

If someone complains about you, the government pays all expenses for your persecution, while you are on the hook for every cent of your defense, while your business or your job or your family life is destroyed on the whim of a complainant. If charges are dropped, you can't sue for damages. Hell, you won't even get an apology. The HRC just decides the day before the trial not to bother.

Here's a good one. A third party can complain on behalf of a potentially offended group. No members of said offended group need actually testify! It's happened. Several times.

And the HRCs can come in and seize computers and papers without a warrant from a real judge. The real police can't do this!

There are many other sordid details in the HRC saga that would do Stalin proud. Mr. Levant details them all.

People who have not followed Mr. Levant's struggle against the tyranny of political correctness and desire not to offend will not understand how insane and unaccountable our Human Rights Commissions are, and how this parallel quasilegal system offends every principle that a free society respects.

Please read this book, and then talk to your friends and family. Though Mr. Levant is entertaining, often Steynian, in his prose, the subject matter is no joke. Our freedom is at stake.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Book Every Canadian Should Read Dec 10 2009
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I couldn't put this book down, and as I read, I became more and more angry. This is a book every Canadian should read! You hear bits and pieces of how the Human Rights Commission makes decisions that defy common sense, but to see the details in writing, gathered together in one book, the eyes open and righteous indignation takes hold. Anyone who cares about the freedoms we enjoy in this country will be shocked at what is happening in the name of "human rights." From the ridiculous decision in favour of a MacDonald's employee who complained because she had to wash her hands, to the outrageous actions of HRC investigators, the reader cannot help but think that it is time to dismantle the HRC. I hope every MP in Ottawa reads this book, and bravo to those who are leading the way in investigating the actions of those who are abusing the power they have. Thank you, Ezra Levant, for having the courage to fight this distructive force!
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Most recent customer reviews
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 2 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 9 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 9 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 12 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
4.0 out of 5 stars Free speech, but how far would Ezra go to defend others?
It's interesting how Ezra was caught up in this fight for free speech. I was wondering if this didn't happen to Ezra how he would feel about people like Ernst Zundel and other so... Read more
Published on May 31 2010 by Joseph Rizoli
5.0 out of 5 stars Should be required reading
Every Canadian should have and read this book. If you care about free speech; about your way of life; about the abuse of Human Right's processes; or about the abuse of government... Read more
Published on March 24 2010 by Nick
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