Last week the Alberta Human Rights and Citizenship Commission rejected a complaint against publisher Ezra Levant that he had promoted anti-Muslim hatred by reprinting the Danish Mohammed cartoons in his now-defunct magazine, the Western Standard. The investigation concluded that while the cartoons are "stereotypical, negative, and offensive," they were "related to relevant and timely news" and were "not simply gratuitously included." Therefore, Levant will avoid a panel hearing similar to that endured by columnist Mark Steyn in June.
One Islamic leader had dropped his complaint against Levant earlier this year, but a second from the Edmonton Council of Muslim Communities had remained. "We thought the cartoons did [expose Muslims to hatred], regardless of the context," the ECMC director said after the ruling. "Obviously we didn't want this to continue, so [another goal was] perhaps to discourage people from further maligning our prophet and our religion. … We wanted this to have a deterrent effect."
That deterrent persists, despite the dismissal. Levant says that the yearlong investigation cost him $100,000 and he estimates a $500,000 tab for taxpayers. Moreover, defendants before the commission cannot sue to recoup legal fees, while complainants have them covered by the state. The Levant case is thus a classic example of lawfare — the filing of frivolous and malicious lawsuits with the aim of silencing or bankrupting opponents of Islamism. Levant summarizes the process as "punishment first, acquittal later." More background on the goals and tactics of lawfare is available on the MEF Legal Project website.
As for the Canadian human rights bodies that Islamists exploit to intimidate critics, Levant has offered this scathing critique of their de facto limitations on press freedom:
The 11-page government report into my activities is a breathtakingly arrogant document. In it, Pardeep Gundara, a low-level bureaucrat, assumes the role of editor-in-chief for the entire province of Alberta. He went through our magazine article and gave his own thoughts on the cartoons, and pronounced on our magazine's decision to publish them. The government's wannabe journalist makes a spelling error, he gets facts wrong, and he's obviously not good with deadlines. We'd never have hired him at our magazine. But the laugh is on us — he's apparently our boss, and the boss of all journalists in Alberta.
That is not acceptable to me. I am not interested in Gundara's views about the cartoons. I'm not interested in learning his personal rules of thumb for when I can or can't express myself. This is Canada, not Saudi Arabia.
At least not yet.