Here are excerpts from Ezra Levant's opening statement
to the Alberta Human Rights Commission when he appeared yesterday:
Alberta Human Rights Commission Interrogation
Opening remarks by Ezra Levant, January 11, 2008 – Calgary
I am here at this government interrogation under protest. It is my position that the government has no legal or moral authority to interrogate me or anyone else for publishing these words and pictures. That is a violation of my ancient and inalienable freedoms: freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and in this case, religious freedom and the separation of mosque and state. It is especially perverted that a bureaucracy calling itself the Alberta human rights commission would be the government agency violating my human rights
As Alan Borovoy, Canada’s leading civil libertarian, a man who helped form these commissions in the 60’s and 70’s, wrote, in specific reference to our magazine, being a censor is, quote, “hardly the role we had envisioned for human rights commissions. There should be no question of the right to publish the impugned cartoons.” Unquote. Since the commission is so obviously out of control, he said quote “It would be best, therefore, to change the provisions of the Human Rights Act to remove any such ambiguities of interpretation.” Unquote.
The commission has no legal authority to act as censor. It is not in their statutory authority.
We have a heritage of free speech that we inherited from Great Britain that goes back to the year 1215 and the Magna Carta. We have a heritage of eight hundred years of British common law protection for speech, augmented by 250 years of common law in Canada.
That common law has been restated in various fundamental documents, especially since the Second World War.
In 1948, the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, to which Canada is a party, declared that, quote:
“Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.”
The 1960 Canadian Bill of Rights guaranteed, quote
1. “ human rights and fundamental freedoms, namely,
(c) freedom of religion; (d) freedom of speech; (e) freedom of assembly and association; and (f) freedom of the press.
In 1982, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms guaranteed, quote:
2. Everyone has the following fundamental freedoms:
a) freedom of conscience and religion;
b) freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press and other media of communication;
Those were even called “fundamental freedoms” – to give them extra importance.
For a government bureaucrat to call any publisher or anyone else to an interrogation to be quizzed about his political or religious expression is a violation of 800 years of common law, a Universal Declaration of Rights, a Bill of Rights and a Charter of Rights.
It is procedurally unfair. Unlike real courts, there is no way to apply for a dismissal of nuisance lawsuits. Common law rules of evidence don’t apply. Rules of court don’t apply. It is a system that is part Kafka, and part Stalin. Even this interrogation today – at which I appear under duress – saw the commission tell me who I could or could not bring with me as my counsel and advisors.
I have no faith in this farcical commission. But I do have faith in the justice and good sense of my fellow Albertans and Canadians. I believe that the better they understand this case, the more shocked they will be. I am here under your compulsion to answer the commission’s questions. But it is not I who am on trial: it is the freedom of all Canadians.
You may start your interrogation.
I expect these words to go around the globe. It is interesting that the news media
, so far, have only played up some of Levant's more "over-the-top" comments, instead of his stirring defense of inalienable rights that no state has the right to take away. They are also playing up the subjective state of hurt feelings and fear of the complainant. In our post modern world where truth no longer seems to matter, only subjective feelings, I fear for the outcome of this case.
There are two clashing views of human rights at play in the West today. One of them stems from the notion that our rights come from God and are based on our being made in His image. It is where our notion of equality before the law comes from. This notion is deeply imbedded in our Judeo-Christian heritage. Because of each human being's intrinsic human dignity, endowed by our Creator, our rights precede the state. The state's job is protecting those rights. The other view is that the state somehow, through constitutions or charters "grants" rights, rather than recognizes pre-existing rights. This is a dangerous conception, because what the state grants, it can take away or circumscribe to the point that the "rights" become meaningless. We are seeing this now.
It's the same thing with conceptions of Rule of Law. Is the rule of law something that transcends man-made laws? Is it embedded in some kind of objective, natural law that presupposes truth and justice? Or is the rule of law whatever a democratic society decides the rules and laws to be. Alas, Canada is moving rapidly in the direction of the latter understanding. The law, as interpreted by unelected judges, (with portions read into the law that Parliament never intended) is increasingly being seen as having all-encompassing claims on every aspect of our lives. The totalitarian implications in this are deeply disturbing. What will happen when, as is increasingly happening, the rule of law no longer resembles transcendent notions of justice? When the government is telling everyone to say "black is white" and "two and two makes five" at the pain of fines or jail terms or worse?
Our fundamental freedoms exist FOR something. They have a purpose. And that purpose is not so we can have the freedom to use the f-word all over the place or to run artistic exhibitions that are blasphemous and disgusting, though we may have to tolerate this in the process. The purpose of our freedoms is so that men and women are free to discover and to proclaim the truth and remain free to assent to it or not. Its purpose is so that truth--even if it is hard to take--stands a chance of being heard in the public square. Totalitarian governments do not want truth to expose their crimes. Truth is the first casualty of any crackdown on our human rights. It is most alarming that in these human rights commissions truth is not a defense.
One of the prices of freedom is accepting that others will have the freedom to disagree in ways I find offensive. Thus, while I will censure this artist as disgusting and blasphemous, a
nd I will fight his receiving any taxpayers' dollars to fund his offensive parody of art, I will oppose any attempts to use the levers of the state to censor him and shut him up. I also stand against anyone who would issue threats against him or in any way harm him physically. It is sad that the Left in Canada will fight for the right of artistic depictions of pornographic pedophilia, as this B.C. Human Rights Decision states
, but supports the use of the state to suppress conservative opinion and expression or even the everyday decisions of mainstream publications concerning news value.
Why isn't journalistic freedom given the same cachet as the rights of a pedophile to write violent pornographic fiction in his diary? Something is seriously wrong with this picture. My guess is that those who support the freedom of pornographers and pedophiles have an antipathy to the moral claims of most of the great religions of the world and want the light shed by these moral traditions to be extinguished. They want their secular fundamentalism to be enshrined.
If they can temporarily enlist the help of Muslims who are crying victim, they will use them as useful idiots in their steps towards a state where all religious expression is privatized and all public expression of any religion, including Islam, will be banned from the public square. Of course, there are radical jihadists who see the secularists as their
useful idiots. Anyone who looks at how extremist jihadists look at homosexuality or radical feminism, wonders why there is this strange alliance between jihadists and leftists.
I trust most Muslims came to the West because they like to have the freedom to worship or not worship in the way they please. I hope we see many more rise up against the the totalitarian impulses
(both non-violent and violent) of some of their co-religionists around the globe. But I would understand if the vast majority are afraid, because the violent minority has even intimidated most news establishments in the West from running the Mohammed cartoons when the deaths and riots made doing so become an important aspect of the news. The New York Times, for example, used a picture of the Blessed Virgin Mary made from elephant dung,
to illustrate its story about the cartoons.
In my 25 years as a journalist, we always assumed that truth was a defense, and so were notions of "fair comment." It is a sad day for Canada that truth and fair comment are no longer defenses and that unelected government officials, operating in secret, measure the extent of hurt feelings in making their determinations. This has got to stop.
I hope that all people of good will in Canada, Christian, Muslim, Jeiwsh, Hindu, Sikh, Atheist, Humanist, whatever their beliefs, will fight to see the fundamental freedoms that have made the West a beacon of hope to the rest of the world (you note that people are still coming here in droves).
Labels: Ezra Levant, freedom of speech, Maclean's Magazine, religious freedom