When it comes to political “journalist” Ezra Levant most people can take him or leave him. To call him a journalist is also somewhat misleading when, in truth, he is more of a political commentator, (some have gone so far as to call him a partisan hack). Nonetheless, Levant represents a certain political perspective in Canada which makes him a valuable voice on the national stage. As long as you keep the “journalist” thing in perspective, he can also be quite interesting to listen to.
Let’s face it though, Levant does rub many people the wrong way by often espousing opinions in the guise of cherry-picked “facts” to suit his own conservative agenda. (Not so different from figures like Naomi Klein or Maude Barlow on the left, really). However, he has a complete, utter and unassailable right to do so under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and should not have to put up with being banned from the Alberta Legislature, for example, or face an ad hoc court of the offended at the Law Society of Alberta.
We know the Notley government backed down in the face of heated opposition from all sides of the political divide, and allowed Levant’s news site “The Rebel” to return to the ranks of journalists who cover the Alberta government. However, last week Levant faced a further challenge in the form of a complaint to the Law Society of Alberta by certain egos he had offended at the Alberta Human Rights Commission over a column he had published in The Sun newspaper chain called “Next Stop, Crazy Town.” The column called out certain documented instances where a judge in that body had shown flashes of anti-Israel sentiment and discriminatory language toward Africans.
Ironically, the case the judge was ruling on was an African man who accused his Alberta employer of racism for letting him go after not showing up for work, and giving no reason for his absence. The man in question had only been employed for 17 days at that point with the company. The Commission ruled against the employer and ordered he pay $10,000 to the complainant in punitive damages.
Is Levant’s column fair and balanced? Far from it. Does it ruffle feathers? Most certainly. But in reading the column there is nothing overtly actionable about it or libelous.
So having no legal recourse, Levant’s opponents instead chose to pursue him through the arcane codes of conduct of the Law Society of Alberta. Levant has not practiced law for 13 years, but is, (make that was), a lawyer in good standing with the body. And this is not the first time Levant has been so pursued. There have been 26 complaints brought against him for his political opinions through the society, and all but two dismissed after lengthy reviews.
Levant submitted his resignation to the body rather than put up with the continuing, (mostly unfounded), challenges which have kept coming at him though this back-door channel at the Law Society.
Like or hate Levant there is a larger principle at stake here. Save instances of obvious hate speech, in Canada we have the right to give our opinion on anything we want. As soon as we start putting limits, or undermining that right in any way, shape or form, our democracy as a whole is diminished. Levant might be an a**hole, but he certainly has the right to be one; just like any of us.