Ezra Levant 1, Canadian Thought Police 0
One legal battle for the publisher who reprinted cartoons of Mohammed is over. Seventeen others remain.
August 8, 2008 - 7:30 am
Ezra Levant is off the hook and he isn’t happy about it.
Two years ago, his now-defunct Western Standard magazine — a rare conservative voice in liberal Canada — became one of the few publications to dare reprint the notorious Danish cartoons of Mohammed.
The magazine was headquartered in the province of Alberta, leading two different local Muslim groups to file complaints against Levant with the Alberta Human Rights Commission (AHRC). Established in the 1970s to hear discrimination complaints in the areas of housing and employment, Canada’s HRCs slowly morphed into a combination censor board/secret police, “investigating” so-called “hate sites” on the web, fining Christian organizations and individuals found guilty of “offending” gay activists, and charging Canada’s oldest magazine, and its columnist Mark Steyn, with “flagrant Islamophobia.”
Levant was interrogated by a government bureaucrat this past January — an interrogation he videotaped and posted on YouTube. Levant’s mocking, impassioned performance, which challenged the HRC’s very legitimacy, was viewed hundreds of thousands of times, made Levant an overnight free speech hero, and ignited a national debate about Canada’s beloved policy of multiculturalism.
Levant blogged earlier this week, “Using government lawyers and taxpayers’ money, they have been pursuing me, infringing on my natural rights of free speech, freedom of the press, and freedom of religion. According to Access to Information documents, there are 15 bureaucrats working on my file. I’m a major crime scene.”
His legal bills topped $100,000, and he estimates the cases have cost Alberta taxpayers $500,000.
Then, for reasons that remain unclear, one Muslim group — the Supreme Islamic Council run by Imam Syed Soharwardy — suddenly dropped its complaint against Ezra Levant in February.
Finally, on August 6, the Edmonton Council of Muslim Communities complaint was dismissed by the Alberta HRC. Levant had “won” what he’d taken to calling “the first blasphemy case in Canada in 80 years.”
The accused’s response wasn’t one of jubilation.