Monday, November 09, 2009

Levant v. Moon: Who Is the Liar?

On October 23, Ezra Levant went after professor Richard Moon who, while actually agreeing that he had significant concerns about section 13 of the Human Rights act and believes is should be removed, had the temerity to call out Levant and the other speechies on their rhetoric and personal attacks on members of the Canadian Human Rights Commission and the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal.

The title of Levant's screed, "Richard Moon: liar for hire" is exactly the over the top discourse we've come to expect from Levant when even people, who might agree with his position but not his conduct, find themselves on the receiving end of his temper tantrums.

One of the websites we read actually took time to responded to Levant's screed. We thought we would share it with you now:

Ezra Levant v. Richard Moon: What are the facts?

On October 24, 2009 Ezra Levant posted on his blog "Richard Moon: liar for hire". I thought the posting so outrageous that it required a response.

Ezra Levant has been a vociferous critic of the Canadian Human Rights Commission (CHRC) and staff as well as former staff. Levant is a friend of the powerful and frequent contributor to Canwest publications, authoring opinion pieces about his problem with the the CHRC. He has even written a book detailing his complaints about human rights commissions. Levant first drew attention as a political advisor to the Reform Party, which subsequently became the Canadian Reform Alliance Party (CRAP). Levant then ran for a federal riding in Alberta and following that became a publisher who drew national attention for re-publishing the infamous Danish cartoons that caused riots throughout Western Europe. Levant was then brought before the Alberta Human Rights Commission which Levant video taped for broadcast on Youttube.

Richard Moon is a Professor of Law at the University of Windsor who authored a report commissioned by the federal government on section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act and the regulation of hate speech on the Internet. Moon has written of Levant that:

“I [Moon] have felt deeply disturbed by the way in which certain claims made on rightwing blogs like Levant’s have seeped into mainstream discourse, many of which are grotesque exaggerations — or, in some cases, outright fabrications of the circumstances....” (Moon quoted in the National Post)

Further, Moon devoted some of his October 23, 2009 Saskatchewan Law Review Annual Lecture, "The Attack on Human Rights Commissions", to the unfair and inaccurate criticisms leveled at the Canadian Human Rights Commission and staff by Levant and others. According to Moon:

"I am sure it comes as no surprise to anyone that there are Internet blogs that post things about the CHRC that are false and malicious. The problem is that these claims have seeped into mainstream discourse – they have been taken up by members of Parliament, they have been adopted in editorials in the National Post and columns in the Globe and Mail and Maclean’s magazine and in a host of other publications, and they have been repeated on radio and television current affairs programming. They have created in the larger public – or a significant element of the public -- a “feeling” that there is a serious problem with human rights commissions, and in particular the Canadian commission, that needs to be addressed. (Moon: Saskatchewan Law Review Annual Lecture)

And the Lecture does that. My purpose here is to examine the claims in Levant's subsequent "Richard Moon: liar for hire", avoiding specific comment on the many potentially libelous statements about Moon, a so-called "corrupt cop" at the CHRC, or the charge that Richard Warman, previously of the CHRC, of using CHRC computers when he was not authorized to do so, etc..

The Facts

1. According to Levant: "Moon claims the CHRC does not have a 100% conviction rate for censorship prosecutions. He weasels around this point a bit, but that's what he means."

Not true: The fact is that Moon does not deny that all the cases sent to Tribunal for hearing by the CHRC were decided against the respondents. Moon points out that the CHRC brought only the most egregious cases to Tribunal for decision and that is why all the twenty or so cases under s. 13 were successfully decided against the respondents. Just read the complaints and/or judgments against people like Guille, Ouwendyk, etc. to find out why the Tribunals ruled against them. No one in their right mind could have found that the respondents were not broadcasting the most virulent forms of hate. What does Levant not understand? If anything, the CHRC should be commended for acting on the side of caution, thereby saving taxpayer dollars.

I will not quarrel here with Levant's choice of words like "conviction rate" and "censorship prosecutions". Those terms more accurately describe criminal prosecution, not the human rights process, which relies on mediation before a Tribunal hearing. These criminal prosecutorial terms are used by Levant to suggest that the CHRC has strayed from a human rights process to a criminal one.

2. According to Levant: "Until the Warman v. Lemire case last month, no-one had beat a prosecution."

Not true: The fact is that the Tribunal struck only the penalty provision in the Lemire case. This is a serious matter that must be appealed. However, the Tribunal found in Warman v. Lemire that, based on the evidence, Lemire was responsible for online hate. Levant slips in the phrase that Lemire "beat a prosecution." Again, Levant wants to suggest that the CHRC behaves as a criminal court.

3. According to Levant: "The reason why section 13 was declared unconstitutional last month in the Warman v. Lemire case was precisely because section 13 had become like a criminal charge."

Not true: Section 13 of the Human Rights Act was not "declared unconstitutional." Nor has s. 13 become "like a criminal charge." No Tribunal member has the power to declare anything "unconstitutional." The Supreme Court must rule on the constitutionality of any law or Act of Parliament. And the CHRC can still help mediate complaints unlike criminal proceedings.

4. According to Levant: "Moon claims that there is no evidence whatsoever that CHRC staffer Dean Steacy made bigoted comments on neo-Nazi websites...."

Fact: Despite all the sound and fury, Levant doesn't once show that Steacy made "bigoted comments" on Nazi websites. Levant can only offer that Stacey made statements about "white supremacists" and "gave them encouragement". This is a far cry from making bigoted or racist comments. However, even if Stacey had made a racist or homophobic comment to gain access to a Nazi website, it would be entirely justified to gain evidence. Every person, including police and national security agencies, forced to gather information about a potentially violent, criminal, or domestic terrorist group by infiltration must use some of the groups language to gain entry. Without seeming to be part of the group, little background information like addresses, activities and contacts, on Nazis would be possible. Despite Levant's extravagant claims, he offers absolutely no evidence of racist statements, no evidence of advocating violence, and no evidence what so ever that Stacey broke any Canadian law.

5. According to Levant: "Moon claims that Richard Warman, the serial complainant-of-fortune in almost all section 13 cases, didn't work on censorship investigations."

Fact: Levant fails to show that Moon lied about Warman. Levant does not show that Warman influenced or worked on any of the complaints he made as a private person while employed by the CHRC. The only thing Levant can complain of is that Warman "trained" co-workers. But Levant fails to explain what "training" involved. Presumably, "training" was on how to do online research, how to find the address of owners of websites and where websites are located, etc. In addition, Levant's description of Warman as a "serial complainant-of-fortune" is gratuitous, inaccurate, unfair and malicious. It implies that Warman is someone less than respectable and sincere in what he tried to do; that is, to use the available tools to stop online racism.

6. Levant objects to some of Warman's online statements in neo-Nazi forums.

Fact: I do not know what, if anything, Warman wrote in Nazi forums. I do know from experience researching domestic terrorist groups that it is usually necessary to make controversial statements in order to infiltrate, expose and gather information about hate groups as many police agencies and CSIS has been forced to do. It obviously irritates and undermines Levant's complaint that the Canadian Jewish Congress gave Warman an award for his online human rights work, despite anything he might, or might not, have said.

7. According to Levant: "[Moon's Law lecture is] not a case of falsehoods vs. facts; it's just a measure of how skewed Moon's judgment is. He actually defends the crazy case of the McDonald's employee who won the human right not to have to wash her hands -- plus $50,000 tax-free for her troubles."

Fact: Datt vs McDonalds is simply a case of an employer not valuing a 23 year employee - an employee who suffered a disability as a result of employment with McDonalds. As the B.C. Tribunal ruled: "She [Ms Datt] was prepared to perform any duties that would accommodate her disability. Despite this commitment, she was terminated by someone she barely knew, had never worked with, and who did not investigate any job opportunities that might have been available. Ms. Datt expected better from her employer, an employer known for its charitable works." (Datt v. McDonald’s Restaurants (No. 3), 2007 BCHRT 324, August 3, 2007).

Ms Datt did not refuse to wash her hands, she could not wash her hands continuously because of a skin condition caused by work and she simply wanted a transfer to another position where hand-washing would not be so frequent. But Levant can't help but throw in a reference to Datt being a woman and a Muslim on his blog. However, Datt's status as both a woman and a Moslem has absolutely nothing to do with the case.

Summary and Conclusion

Levant fails miserably to deliver the facts to prove that Moon is a liar, that the CHRC and former employees are corrupt. Levant simply makes exaggerated claims, but does not prove any of his charges of corruption, malfeasance, et cetera.

To prove his case, Levant must not only show that Moon lied in some substantial way (which Levant does not show) but also that Moon lies for money; that Richard Moon is willing to compromise his integrity as a legal scholar and lie for money. That is what "liar for hire" means and this is a most serious charge. I can't read Levant's mind, but the extreme vitriol of his posting points to a personal reaction to Moon's Law Lecture, rather than just a professional interest in the CHRC and s. 13.

In addition, to prove wrong doing by Warman, Levant must show that he had a direct influence, and Levant does not even show any indirect influence, in the CHRC's handling of his complaints against Nazis and hate mongers. But that is not enough: The crucial stage for any complaint is at the level of the Tribunal and Levant does not present any evidence at all of any backroom influence by Warman on the Tribunal.

To prove wrong doing by any other former staff, or present staff, of the CHRC, Levant must provide direct evidence, but he fails to deliver.

In the end, Levant's blog is just a lot of sound and fury signifying nothing.

I have resisted commenting on what I think of the merit of potential liable suits for the spurious allegations contained in Levant's blog. Not being a lawyer, I can only speculate that Levant would be at risk of several libel suits and a complaint to the professional body over seeing lawyers.

We'll let Professor Moon get in the last word:

“I’m deeply disturbed by the…smear campaign against the people who support Section 13 and the people at the Commission who are, for the most part, simply carrying out their statutory duties,” Moon says. “You can have a problem with the statute and call for its repeal without attacking civil servants who are generally implementing the law as it stands.”


Anonymous said...

It is nice to see the blogosphere challenging Levant and his ilk. Many of the points being made by Prof. Moon have been made elsewhere, but the media, not surprisingly, do not cut and paste from those opinions as they have do from the extreme right. Two pieces worth checking: Jane Bailey's "Democracy suffers when equality is threatened" Ottawa Citizen, Dec. 11 2008 and "The Controversy Entrepreneurs" Maisonneuve Magazine. Here is the link

Anonymous said...

This blogger also has quite a bit on Ezra. Its too bad he/she seems to have stopped blogging.