The Committee of Public Sensitivity: An Interview with Ezra Levant

The current rush to socialize the American economy will bring more and more of us in touch with bureaucracy in all of its incompetent and uncaring forms. Canada's ahead of us in the process of eradicating individual liberties. Indigenous to the Great White North is a breed of totalitarian we seldom see here outside of a university. They reside within the confines of their human rights commissions (HRCs) and enforce political correctness throughout the land. They make their living by hiding from the electorate their true purpose while terrorizing those who are too poor to defend themselves.

Luckily, in the midst of a routine matanza, the committee mistakenly selected a victim with the will and the resources to fight back. Indeed, his spirited defense now endangers their entire existence. The name of this person is Ezra Levant and he is a lawyer, journalist, public intellectual, and former editor of the Western Standard. Previously, he authored Fight Kyoto, Youthquake, and The War on Fun.

After republishing in 2006 the infamous Danish cartoons of Mohammed, he soon found himself facing one of the HRC tribunals. We are fortunate that he filmed the event and posted the proceedings online for the sake of posterity. Watching him vivisection a dull minion of the state is quite pleasurable. This particular desk-jockey ran into a lawyer who, unlike herself, possessed talent and zeal. His struggle and the state of affairs in Canada are described in great detail in Levant's recently released book, Shakedown: How Our Government Is Undermining Democracy in the Name of Human Rights.

BC: Congratulations on the success of your book, Mr. Levant. For those who are unfamiliar, what exactly is a Canadian human rights commission (HRC)? Do they function independent of the regular court system?

Ezra Levant: Thanks. In Canada, HRCs are government agencies. There are fourteen of them in the country -- one for every province and territory, and one national HRC. They're "quasi-judicial tribunals" -- that means they're sort of like courts. They have the power to hold hearings and issue rulings -- including fines and other punishments, such as forced apologies. Their rulings are filed at real courts and take on the force of law. To ignore a human rights commission order is to be in contempt of court -- for which the punishment can include prison.

HRCs lack crucial elements of natural justice; they resemble kangaroo courts. But it's not just their procedures that are un-Canadian (and un-American). It's their substance: they prosecute "human rights" cases that aren't real human rights at all -- like the counterfeit "right not to be offended." I was prosecuted for 900 days under that one.

BC: Are the HRCs an example of a good idea gone mad or were they never a good idea in the first place?

Ezra Levant: I think it's a good idea for us to get along, regardless of race or sex, etc. But most of life's little grievances and setbacks are too trivial to be arbitrated by the government. We shouldn't criminalize mere rudeness or offensiveness. And we shouldn't dress up a political action committee as a neutral arbiter of justice.

BC: You had two tactics in fighting back: "1. Denormalize the commissions; and 2. Press legislators to act." What do you mean by denormalize? And could conservatives make more use of your methods as a means of combating PC orthodoxy?

Ezra Levant: I think most debates are won or lost before they've even begun. That's because one side manages to define the terms of the debate and even the vocabulary. Take the very name "human rights commission." How could you possibly argue against something so saintly? And me? I was accused of "hate speech." Who could possibly support me?

Time to turn that around. I was actually the defender of human rights -- freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of religion, property rights. The HRCs were violating my rights. I wasn't a hater; I was merely publishing the news. But, as it turns out, many staffers of HRCs are so radical, their own politics can reasonably be called hate. Etc. My point is: I decided not to let the other side have all the good words. That's a story about political correctness. But it's about something much deeper than that; it goes back to George Orwell's Newspeak and 1984. I wasn't about to let some petty fascists tell me I was abnormal. They were. And it was my goal to prove it.