Sunday, January 13, 2008

Free speech chill in Canada:
Steyn, Levant fight government-sponsored tribunals

A Guest Post by NEIL FLAGG

It is my sincere pleasure and honor to have been asked by Ms. Eden to guest-post here on The Dawn Patrol! As a product of the secular-liberal Reform Jewish community who has made the rare transition to the pro-life camp, I have a fair bit in common with the host of this site, and a great deal of respect for the courage of Christians who dare to challenge the degraded cultural norms imposed by our nihilistic elites. I'm a full-time businessman, husband, and father of one (with a second due by the end of January), and a part-time blogger focusing on politics, culture, and public opinion in Canada. Blogroll or bookmark me at

Dawn asked me to write an entry on the topic of free speech in Canada, which has been a hot topic since Maclean's magazine — the Canadian equivalent of Time or Newsweek — was slapped with three "Human Rights" complaints by radical Islamic activists, for its publication of an excerpt from Mark Steyn's worldwide bestseller, America Alone, last year.

Established in the radical liberal era of the 1970s and early 1980s under the leadership of Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, Canada and each of its provinces has extra-judicial "Human Rights" tribunals created to deal with complaints of discrimination and bias. Without the constraints of the regular legal system, these tribunals can act on any hand-scrawled complaint, and enforce financial and restrictive penalties on defendants — defendants who have no right to petition for the dismissal of nuisance charges.

For more on Steyn's case, read his own recent editorial in Maclean's, "The Right Not To Be Offended." Even The Economist editorial board, which clearly despises Steyn and his ilk, leapt to his defense in this week's edition.

Now, for the first time, the banality of the Human Rights tribunals' work is being exposed for the world to see first-hand. Calgary-based conservative columnist and publisher Ezra Levant has been served with two complaints from local radical Islamists, and is being forced to defend himself for publishing the now-infamous "Mohammed cartoons" two years ago in his now-defunct biweekly magazine, The Western Standard.

Turning lemons into lemonade, Levant has taken the opportunity to attack the tribunal system itself, and, against the bureaucrats' unenforceable orders, has uploaded his appearance before "Human Rights Officer" Shirlene McGovern this past Friday to YouTube. Want to be inspired by a passionate, eloquent advocacy of free speech, free expression, and freedom of the press? Watch this, you won't be disappointed:

For more must-see video clips from this hearing, and more biting commentary, make sure to check out Mr. Levant's own blog, This is priceless video #8212; at once dramatic, brilliant, and illuminating — worth watching even for the body language of the inquisitor alone!

The lesson here is simple: free speech is under attack throughout the Western world, particularly by Islamists who are turning our own well-meaning but wrong-headed liberals into attack dogs for their own agenda.

Women like Ms. McGovern never even consider the fact that their sacred value, enshrined in no constitution — the right to not be offended— could be used as a weapon against the very bedrock of our free societies. Yet that is exactly what is happening, because progressives like McGovern hate sharp-edged conservative polemicists like Steyn and Levant more than they hate the avowed enemies of Western liberal civilization.