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.
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
"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."
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— 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.”
From the Hardcover edition.