I spent Monday in a somewhat cramped courtroom in Toronto, at the defamation trial of my old comrade in the battle against the "human rights" commissions, Ezra Levant. The National Post's Joseph Brean reports:
A libel trial begins this morning in Toronto nearly six years after it was launched in the heat of Canada's first online culture war.
Pitting a Regina lawyer against a nationally known television personality who describes himself as "one of Canada's premier advocates of free expression," Khurrum Awan v. Ezra Levant is one of several defamation suits that arose from the fight over hate speech bans in human rights law. But as one of the last to come to trial, it marks a kind of bookend on Canada's noisy hate debate.
Spectators, including columnist Mark Steyn and famed hate case lawyer Barbara Kulaszka, packed the little courtroom on Toronto's University Avenue. Witnesses are expected to include the participants, National Post reporter Brian Hutchinson, and prominent lawyer Julian Porter, who used to act for Maclean's magazine.
Yes, it's like a little 2008 time-warp. Here's Joseph Brean's follow-up story:
The roots of this case are in 2007, when Maclean's magazine published an excerpt from Mark Steyn's book America Alone, entitled The Future Belongs To Islam. Mr. Steyn, a long-time ally of Mr. Levant in the free speech wars, attended the proceedings Monday.
Offended by the article, Mr. Awan and three fellow law students complained to Maclean's about its depiction of Muslims as a threat to the West, and cited several other articles in Maclean's on the same theme. Initially, they sought space for a rebuttal, but when that failed, they filed a human rights hate speech complaint in Ontario. Others followed federally and in British Columbia, brought by the Canadian Islamic Congress.
Actually, all three were filed simultaneously, notwithstanding their different plaintiffs.
At any rate, I was surprised to settle in this morning, and hear Awan and his counsel, Brian Shiller, devote so much of his examination in chief to the original 2006 Maclean's excerpt of America Alone (personally autographed copies available here), and Awan's "shock" at my flagrant "Islamophobia", etc. But I got used to it pretty quickly. Having flopped out at the Ontario "Human Rights" Commission, the Canadian "Human Rights" Commission and the British Columbia "Human Rights" Tribunal, Awan sees this case, in effect, as his appeal. Despite three strikes, he's not out.
~When Joe Brean says we "packed the little courtroom", that's not that difficult. There are just eight seats for members of the press and public combined. So, when Ezra's many supporters poured in, the court security officer helpfully dragged spare seats from the counsels' and parties' tables to the back of the room for the standing-room-only crowd. Madam Justice Matheson, who seems a decent sort and way sharper than the slapdash Judge Combs Greene that I wound up with in DC, nevertheless said something that made me bristle a little. She warned the members of the public that seating was limited and that "we're not going to continue to provide chairs" for the rest of the week. Justice has not only to be done, but has to be seen to be done. It seems very odd that the Province of Ontario should build courtrooms in which it is all but impossible for anyone to see justice being done.
~Speaking of The National Post, I helped launch the paper and I remain fond of it. But, post-Ken Whyte, it really does employ some dreary writers. BC Blue noticed this Tweet from Post arts writer Jeet Heer:
Fun fact: Mark Steyn is an enormously ignorant racist with a huge fan base on the right, in both Canada & the US.
Fun fact: Jeet Heer provides no facts and no fun. Sad that he works at a paper once known for both the content and style of its writing. As I once said (in The National Post, as it happens), calling someone totally racist is totally gay.
Even funnier fact: Jeet Heer seems to think "brown or black" people need to have books read to them.
~Maybe Mr Heer should take it to the next level. Headline from The Washington Post:
"Islamic Extremists" Put a Price on Your Head? That Means You Can't Give a Speech in This American Government Building
As Eugene Volokh tells it, if you want to kill someone's speaking career, just take out a fatwa on them. Then every public-safety-conscious police chief will rule it's too dangerous to allow them through the door:
Maybe the speaker will still be able to speak in "traditional public forums," such as parks or sidewalks. But it'll be a lot harder, because you will have effectively enlisted American government officials in your speech-suppression jihad. Plus what a low-cost tactic this is — you needn't actually put yourself a risk by attacking the speaker, or by identifying yourself as the threatener. You can just make the threats anonymously online (or make them from a country that sympathizes with the threats), and then count on others to inform government property managers about the threats (again, with no risk of punishment).
And, as I've noted before, behavior that gets rewarded gets repeated. If this works for this speaker, why not for other speakers? Don't like Pam Geller? Threaten to kill her, and then it'll be harder for her to speak (whether or not you're planning to make good on the threats).
Don't like Mark Steyn? Michelle Malkin? Eugene Volokh? Threaten to kill them, too. Then when one of them shows up to a speech at, say, a public university, someone can just tell the university about the threat, and maybe the university will do the same thing that Alleghan High School did.
From Awan to Alleghan, it's all about shutting people up.
~Thank you for all the nice comments on Sun News' rerun of my Manning Conference speech last night. But, if you missed Ezra Levant in that slot, he and I will be doing a one-hour special together in the next week or two.
~Not much news on the Michael E Mann front these last 24 hours, but this is my favorite Twitter exchange of the day. First, the lame-o Mann accusing Michael Liebreich (Bloomberg New Energy Finance, UN High Level Group on Sustainable Energy, Clinton Global Initiative) of crossing over to the dark side:
Mr Liebreich replies:
That's a healthy attitude - rather than the frenzied Twitter blocking and industrial-scale Facebook comment-deleting that the insecure Mann indulges in. But then, knob-wise, he's an aircraft carrier. I expect he's blocked Liebreich by now.